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Lindstrøm & Christabelle - Real Life is No Cool

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Artist: Lindstrøm & Christabelle

Album: Real Life is No Cool

Label: Smalltown Supersound

Review date: Jan. 21, 2010

The attraction of some synth-based music lies in the instrument’s ability to sound like pleasure itself. The appeal of this collaboration, between Lindstrøm—the Norwegian dude who got a surprising amount of attention for the Schulze/Göttsching sprawl of 2008’s Where You Go I Go Too—and Christabelle, a Norwegian-Mauritian singer previously credited as Solale, would not be lost on yr typical Lady Gaga fan. The productions aren’t exclusively synthwork: much of the album’s drama comes from strategic contributions from live instruments, and Christabelle spends most of her time wandering around the grounds instead of leading things. There’s no arc of enjoyment on Real Life Is No Cool, just a stoned plateau.

The album’s target audience has probably spent more time reading about Giorgio Moroder on the Internet than actually listening to his music. So although a Summer-Moroder comparison holds water over the breadth of this electronic producer-sultry singer collaboration, the album’s actual pleasure centers are less coy—"Keep It Up" is a new-age Prince pastiche; "Baby Can’t Stop" is an extended Off The Wall-style strut. Lindstrøm highlights the particular nature of the collaboration by isolating and manipulating Christabelle’s improvised singing. "Looking for What" opens with opaque smears of backmasked vocals; their inclusion establishes how much Lindstrøm enjoys working with his source material, but is otherwise pointless. What comes after seems like pop only by comparison and length, an arpeggio throb that Lindstrøm ornaments with a cut-up of Christabelle’s curious phrasing.

The album hits nerve centers more associated with Zapp than beardo disco, even as the rhythms don’t stray from sturdy house underpinnings. Lindstrøm’s strength isn’t in miniatures, though, and even with most tracks hovering around five minutes, this collaboration isn’t in any particular rush to get anywhere. Despite its sustained seratonin rush of pop recognition, Real Life Is No Cool feels as formless and clunky as the first seconds of "Looking for What" on a regular basis. Although the album is more enjoyable on the whole than AGF/Delay’s insular Symptoms, the collaboration between Antye Greie-Fuchs and Vladislav Delay forms a better comparison than Summer-Moroder one. The collaboration here seems simultaneously oversaturated and alienated, like the two were working under intense intimacy yet at cross-purposes. That strange, overdetermined closeness was one of the themes of Symptoms but seems superfluous in RLINC.

The constantly renewed story of Making The Pop Album comes into play when thinking about this record, but luckily it’s stranger in execution than in concept. Christabelle’s vocal tics and meandering style also recall Mark E. Smith’s frontmannery for Von Südenfed, although it sounds like Christabelle is laughing at her own incoherence rather than wielding it. Even better, there’s no track here that towers over the others, as "The Rhinohead" did; so while there’s no pointing out a surpassing moment, there are also no considerable lulls. Front-to-back, Real Life Is No Cool does exactly what it set out to do and no more: be a collection of dance pop tunes so solid it feels like they’ve always been there.

By Brandon Bussolini

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