Styrofoam

I'm What's There to Show That Something's Missing

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With the addition of a few simple elements (vocal hooks, harmonies), Styrofoam's Arne Van Petegem has managed to wriggle himself out of the blind alley latent in Morr Music's sleepy electro noodlings and into the realm of gentle, vocal-driven electro-pop already occupied by his incestuous contemporaries the Notwist, Ms. John Soda, and Lali Puna. There's no real compromise at play here, though; much in the spirit of the Notwist's critically admired Neon Golden (which this record owes a tremendous debt to), Petegem has managed to embrace a more concise pop template without ever diluting his sprawling, pristine electronics. As a singer, Petegem performs here without pretense, delivering his lines in a clean, unaffected midrange. As a songwriter, he displays an obvious affinity for late-'80s Anglo-pop, his circular melodies and subtly layered harmonies at times reminiscent of a slowed-down New Order, especially on the lead single, "A Heart Without a Mind." Other highlights include album opener "The Long Wait" -- which churns on an acoustic guitar coda and twirling electronic keyboards -- and "Blow It Away From Your Eyes," a minor-key singsong that gently sputters to an extended close. Better realized than either of Styrofoam's prior, mostly instrumental works, I'm What's There to Show That Something's Missing is equally satisfying as an electronic record as it is as a dream pop record, making it another in a happily increasing pile of albums to successfully bridge the gap between the two.

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