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Rainbow Arabia - Boys and Diamonds

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Artist: Rainbow Arabia

Album: Boys and Diamonds

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Feb. 28, 2011

Husband-and-wife duo Rainbow Arabia — Tiffany and Danny Preston, based in Los Angeles — are seemingly well placed to join Kompakt’s brave new world, where sleek techno and winsome synth-pop are only two of the label’s hydra-heads. They’ve released one previous mini-album (Kabukimono, on Manimal Vinyl,) a few singles, and garnered a slightly perplexed and hesitantly supportive reception from a music press that’s rather familiar with multi-culti, pan-global electronica and indie-pop.

Like a lot of music benefiting from the blogosphere’s voracious appetite for "the new," Boys and Diamonds is a bricoleur’s hodge-podge of style. The opening title track lifts chord changes from Visage’s “Fade To Grey,” making explicit a 1980s synth-pop connection; spindly, lingala guitar lines also place it close to Vampire Weekend’s literate, preppy Graceland-pop. There’s a charming lift from Giorgio Moroder at the beginning of “Sequenced,” and a few nods toward chill-wave synths in “This Life Is Practice,” which is a great song title. But too much here hovers close to dull presets — their rhythms in particular are plastic and rigid, without the pliability and mutable pleasure of techno or acid house. Imagine being locked in a room with only some poorly digested, Auto-Tuned MP3s of "world music" from sharity blogs for company.

Boys and Diamonds is an indecisive beast, where "access-all-areas" aesthetics too often devolve to unfocused song writing. At its best, the slightly touristic pan-globalism comes across as third-rate Gang Gang Dance; at its worst, it’s just the Thompson Twins for the noughties. (And yeah, I’m aware it’s 2011.) Tiffany Preston’s vocals have the flexibility of Koshi Miharu or Annabella Lwin, but little charm. If you wanted to flatter Rainbow Arabia, you could say they were a Bow Wow Wow for the 21st century, without a calculating Malcolm McLaren behind the wheel.

Still, I guess they’d better grab the zeitgeist today — after all, by its very nature, it (and maybe Rainbow Arabia themselves) will be gone tomorrow.

By Jon Dale

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