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310 - Recessional

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Artist: 310

Album: Recessional

Label: Leaf

Review date: Feb. 22, 2004

The artwork for Recessional's digipack is a fairly accurate representation of the music: clean, crisp, calm, and somewhat empty. The trio that constitute 310 – Joseph Dierker, Tim Donovan and Andrew Sigler – have crafted a slick collection of songs that take their start from carefully assembled electronic rhythms. Mainly mid-tempo, a few years back this might have been called trip-hop.

310 have a good sense for atmosphere, mostly of the darker variety, bringing to mind other artists like Witchman. But it's the album's occasional forays into pop, complete with vocals, that give it a distinctive personality. "Opposite Corners," the album's opener, sets the theme for Recessional, starting with chilly downtempo beats, murmured vocals, and some guitar, pushing things more into an electronicized pop vein. I'm sure the trio would hate any comparison with Moby, but while 310 are decidedly less ingratiating, there's still a resemblance in their occasional melodic hooks.

Perhaps "Cloud Rooms" is the most accessible song here, with very pleasant vocals that harkens back to early Depeche Mode incanted over a steady kick drum thud, bubbly synths and a fuzzed-out guitar drone. While the song’s vocals are higher in the mix than anywhere else on Recessional, it's not necessarily the most memorable melody. 310 seem to have a better feel for instrument-derived hooks than vocal melodies, as most of the songs featuring vocals end up showcasing their least-memorable elements.

A song like "ExuMix," for example, lets a simple, effective guitar line drive it, while "Night on the Ocean" has an interesting clunky rhythm with what sounds like banjo and keyboard, but the chanted vocals detract from what's going on.

The overall glossiness and, for lack of a better word, utter civility of the album is the other aspect that I can't seem to get past. "Study in Scarlet" swims by with what might be eBow guitar or might be woodwind, with drums and wooden percussion all tightly bound together into a slick, seamless package. It's nice, but it feels like a construction more than a song, a collection of complementary sounds assembled simply because they fit nicely.

That may be picking nits, depending on your own take on such things. No doubt 310 have studio skills, and when they hit on an instrumental hook their songs can be hard to forget. But otherwise, Recessional tends to fade into audio wallpaper: smooth, slick, and unlikely to disturb.

By Mason Jones

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