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Dino Felipe - No Fun Demo

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Artist: Dino Felipe

Album: No Fun Demo

Label: No Fun

Review date: Sep. 9, 2008


Dino Felipe - "Chandeliers" (No Fun Demo)


Given the respective pedigrees of Miami wild-child Dino Felipe and NYC noise stable No Fun Productions, I certainly had my assumptions about Felipeís full-length debut for the label. Since the late í90s, Felipe has released a dizzying amount of laptop dementia, most notoriously for his glitch-infested pop demolition on Schematic Records. His eclectic absurdism has made it difficult to pin him down as an artist, flaunting a bevy of personae and styles that have birthed legions of neon-coated offspring: from the florescent synth-crunk of Finesse + Runway, to the drug-addled assault of FKTRN.

The more punishing and volatile of his digi-compositions (such as 2005ís Iím You) would seem right at home on fellow Miami native Carlos Giffoniís imprint Ė one of the subterranean leaders in grimy electronics. Heís even been a regular collaborator with Giffoni via the cut-up noise project Old Bombs. With that in mind, I expected a similarly chaotic offering from Felipe here Ö but found quite the opposite to be true. No Fun Demo actually reveals Felipeís forays into lo-fi psych-pop, collecting a smattering of tracks heís been recording at home since 2001. The deranged quality, feedback fits and overall disorientation of the individual songs lends the record its oblique match for the No Fun roster, though still comes off a bit baffling in the context of Felipeís previous work.

Thatís not to say that No Fun Demo is without charm; fans of the Ariel Pink school of muddled pop collage will no doubt delight over Felipeís tunes, which maintain a detached appeal for the stoned loners. But while Pink is notorious for digginí on the dial a tad too erratically, Felipe remains more focused throughout the record, shifting seamlessly between no-wave throwbacks and hazy guitar ditties. It would be appropriate to speak of Felipeís songwriting skills, but such an assessment is near impossible, as most of the albumís lyrics are obscured beneath varying levels of pitch-shifted delay and murky production aesthetics. From what I can make out, most tracks touch on love-lost pessimism delivered in a glitter-gone-shoegaze hybrid, complete with an often sexually-ambiguous vocal approach. Felipe even covers a track from the destructo-glam anthems of Mike Wattonís Haunted House moniker through his version of "Chandeliers," with staccato piano chops driving the teenage screech.

Felipe certainly excels with No Fun Demo in terms of crafting lysergically-damaged bedroom rock. But itís here that the main problem arises: Endearing though they are, the songs seem to take a step back in Felipeís oeuvre, shackling him more to musical modes of the í80s and í90s instead of pushing the envelope with his knack for computer-crafted delusions. Sure, itís a noble trend in the underground to resist digital recording techniques in favor of analog technologies, but in Felipeís case, the shift toward a somewhat more traditional song structure on No Fun Demo betrays the electronic innovation that heís displayed on recent releases. Last yearís Kinks EP (available for free download via Clinical Archives) and even his latest effort, Personality Crisis, exhibit the pop prowess that Felipe reaches for here, but effectively mangles the formula through hacker code and circuit-board crackle.

Keeping the "demo" part of the recordís title in mind, Felipeís songs are quite beautiful, growing warmer and more personable with each listen. But on the other hand, No Fun Demo emerges as a bit of a disappointment because it throws Felipeís cyber-DIY direction in reverse, forsaking in-your-face digital displays for a more subdued take. The blurb on the labelís website hails the record as "pop music of the present," but No Fun Demo waxes too nostalgic for that to be entirely true. In the end, Iím left wishing that Felipe had attempted to channel the future instead.

By Cole Goins

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