Booka Shade

The Sun & the Neon Light

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    6
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On their third official full-length, German duo Booka Shade get serious about the album format and deliver a set of rainy-day tracks influenced by the Berlin (Tangerine Dream) and Düsseldorf (Cluster) schools of electronic music with a touch of Giorgio Moroder, especially the man's Midnight Express soundtrack. At worst, like on the opening "Outskirts," reverence for these classic tones and an overwhelming desire to be earnest make the music surprising lifeless. Half of The Sun & the Neon Light ends up sounding like an entry in the Mind's Eye computer animation video series, where slick, serviceable sounds provide pleasant backdrops for futuristic dreaming. Light drumbeats from the machine sit under well-crafted layers of synths that echo into the distance and the occasional vocoder vocal crops up to offer the restrained hooks and forgettable, unobtrusive lyrics. If Booka Shade are trying to transition from a club to a headphone act, the duo's quest is undermined by the highlights -- "Dusty Boots," "Karma Car," and the wonderful space-disco track "Charlotte" -- all of which thump a little louder, causing knees to bend and hips to shake. Loyal listeners looking for a more "personal" album from the band will have fewer complaints, but the casual fan will miss the more dynamic and vibrant elements of their earlier work.

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