Luke Slater

Alright on Top

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An "album with songs" -- as Luke Slater described his third album on Mute -- from techno's best trackhead? Purists and DJs can rightly despair that tracks from Alright on Top will take much more concentration to slot into their sets next to Ben Sims or Millsart. Still, Slater giving over half the album to vocalist Ricky Barrow (formerly of the Aloof) turns out better than expected, certainly a radically different album than his others. Slater's distinctive style of pummeling electro-techno is still audible, though occasionally he's content to simply recycle a few electronic pop conventions rather than explore new ground. "You Know What I Mean" rages like any post-millennial electro-industrial band, while "Stars and Heroes" works in sequencer territory reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder disco or Depeche Mode synth pop. Alright on Top does have some amazing productions ("Only You" and "Searchin' for a Dream" especially), but too much of the album is ruined by Barrow's trite lyrics and over-reaching delivery. ("You Know What I Mean" begins: "I'm here/Looking for nothing looking at someone/Maybe you got what I need.") Barrow fails at his frequent attempts to hit the heights of legendary falsettos from Horace Andy to Marvin Gaye, and rarely succeeds at his quest to summon the stoned beatitude of Spiritualized's Jason Pierce. It's admirable of Slater to dive right into the world of vocal/production collaborations instead of simply dipping a toe in the water, but tapping a better vocalist would have produced much better results.

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