Icebreaker

Distant Early Warning

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Simon Break and Alexander Perls' first geopolitical concept record names itself after the system of radars located in northern Canada and Alaska that were built during the cold war to alert NATO countries of Soviet nuclear strikes. This instrumental song cycle assembled from keyboards, organs, pianos, and a series of drones most resembles the chilled eeriness of Broadcast's most atmospheric side, Steve Reich, or even Brian Eno. Icebreaker are excellent at making such an isolated, barren landscape seem so warm and lulling, placing haunting melodies every so often enough amid the cavernous drones to make the record go down more as an ambient pop record than one that merely fades into the background with whatever incidental noises fill out a room -- passing vehicles, chirping birds, creaking floors, appliance hum. "Melody for NATO" -- originally found on a split 7" with former associates Piano Magic for Debut -- is the disc's opener and the most involving of the eight tracks, built on a fragile, rolling melody that constantly shifts above sensitive percussion. The track gradually dims the way a room does when daylight dissipates, with the melodic tones warping into scratchy AM-interference territory. The duo also knows a thing or two about minimalism. The title track bridges the first and second halves of the record together with a simple one-two piano plod and creepy ambience, like walking through one of the unmanned stations depicted on the cover of the record; "The Track North" places a sickly organ tone upfront while another swirls in the background (sounds like Jon Lord's napping on the keys). Another repetitive keyboard organ hook dominates the closing "Listening Station," which shows what Stereolab could do if they lost the motorik chug and went for a darker sound. Great concept, great record.

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