Oliver Future

Pax Futura

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Despite the forward-looking title, Pax Futura is an old-fashioned song cycle, and the use of that phrase is a deliberate echo of Van Dyke Parks' 1968 debut album. Pax Futura doesn't sound a bit like Song Cycle, of course (what does?), but like Parks' record, this is an impressionistic suite comprised of songs that look at the city of Los Angeles (the formerly Texas-based band's adopted hometown) seen through the eyes of outsiders. Specifically, outsiders armed with a battery of excellent vintage keyboards, a grab bag of cool production tricks and a fearlessness about bleeding seemingly disparate musical styles together, so that the danceable Stereolab goes Latin-percussion-and-synth groove of "Signing Off" bangs up appealingly against the Edwyn Collins-like white boy soul of "Stranger Than the Stranger," with its mellow verses leading to a tightly wound, jittery chorus, and then both are trumped by the nervy new wave rock of "What Heart?" There's not a duff track here, and the endless invention and subtle detail on display keeps Pax Futura listenable across multiple hearings. This is a band to keep an eye on.

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