90 Degrees South

Plans for Travel

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90° Degrees South's second full-length release, Plans for Travel, veers toward a more danceable music. The laid-back living room approach that provided the basis for the first album is still there, but somehow relegated to the back row. The very natural-sounding programmed drums made way for a retro drum machine. Analog synthesizers also occupy more space. Tempos have been slightly sped up on a few numbers too. As a result, Kev Fox' music has moved slightly away from the Labradford/Tortoise connection and closer to Stereolab -- "Supermarine S6" even evokes Kraftwerk's Autobahn. While The Barrier Silence and the EP A Distant Memory of Home wove a polar exploration theme, Plans for Travel focuses on historic means of transportation -- which probably explains the faster pace of this album. All track titles are taken from car, plane, and boat models. It makes good road music, but listeners who enjoyed the previous CDs will probably miss something. The melodic spark that ignited the stripped-down Barrier Silence is buried in the layers of sound. One fails to find the same charming naiveté. Even "Midnight, Blue Star" and "'A' Class on Exercise," the closest examples of 90° South's earlier sound, can't top "First Atlantic Flight." Whether this CD is as good as the first or not depends on taste, but you probably won't like the two albums for the same reasons.

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