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Slumber Party - Musik

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Artist: Slumber Party

Album: Musik

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Review date: Aug. 27, 2006

Musik finds the “K” in Detroit ice princesses Slumber Party’s music, to be sure. K as in kilobytes, digital coffinry. These ladies are staying indoors now, turning the A/C on, opening the deep freeze doors, and converting their enviroment into a clean room of pink electronic chill. Change is inevitable, and not too risky of a proposition; their first two albums, though gorgeous, really didn’t deviate from one another in terms of presentation, faded ghostly photographs of spectral chanteuse ballads - The Virgin Suicides come to life. The specifics of their approach also guaranteed the band would run out of ways to make said ideas work over and over. Their third album 3 was unheard by these ears, but it seems highly unlikely that any changes to their M.O. could have been as complete as the overhaul found here. 

That “K” in Musik might as well stand for Warn Defever, by the way. There just doesn’t seem to be a way for bands who work with him to escape his particular slant on remaindered technology. So if he’s feeling synths, then synths are what you’re having. This may also work in tandem with the group’s re-creation; only Aliccia Berg remains as an original member, replacing the original members with androidgynous ladies Alia Allen on guitar, Raquel Salaysay on bass, and Naomi Ruth on additional keys, with a handful of guests. No drums in sight, save two tracks; that’s mostly handled by machines now. If Berg was hoping to find a way to position her group at the poles of the Detroit underground, from Matthew Smith’s psychorganic curio cabinetry, to Defever’s and Dion Fischer’s robotic repair shop, then she’s fully accomplished this feat. 

Crossing over to the robotic side of the street has its ones and zeros, the biggest issue being that the machines at hand don’t exactly open the group up to a new world of possibilities. True, the subtleties are gone, and replaced with flashes that are at times very direct and winning. But if anything, Musik might be the group’s most anonymous-sounding record yet. Trembling electric guitar weaves dual racing, out-of-phase sine waves in ways that are more maddening than melodic, and basic, brittle beats carry all the emotional heft of a heart-rate monitor. That these sounds are basically framing what could very well be the Slumber Party of yore, touched up by electro arrangements, reduces the depth and passion by half, sanding down one of the most layered and wistfully crafted stabs at 21st century American pop tailfinnery to something as ubiquitous as a K-car.  

Still, there’s a good bit going for Musik, mostly when Berg and company try for something a bit different. Opener “10-9-8-7-6-5-4” might be the group’s loudest number to date, masking over minimal backing with lush, psychedelic guitar leads and a determined, foot-in beat crunch. There’s a pleasantly static quality to the drums of “Madeupmind,” cushioned by busy, '60s style ric-tic bass and $1.99 cheapo electronix swarming all around confident girl-group pop. And Berg’s vocal delivery and solemn piano lilts on closer “Electric Cave” rework the group as a serious older sister to the manic pop machinery of the Friedberger’s Fiery Furnaces, whose key-heavy tornadoes bear more than a passing resemblance to Musik when they see fit to settle into a song. The new directions presented here by Slumber Party don’t always engage, but when they do, they open up new hope to a band trying to bend its way out of formula and become itself again.

By Doug Mosurock

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