Dwellers on the Threshold

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Tarwater's second album for Mute sounds very similar to the first, which in turn sounded much like the duo's early work done for Berlin's Kitty-Yo. Of course, there's nothing saying an electronic group has to keep advancing the course of music, but Tarwater has a frustrating habit of stopping just short of producing fleshed-out songs, which results in skeletal, overly repetitive work ("Metal Flakes," "Diver," "1985") that sounds more like demos than completed material. The opener, "70 Rupies to Paradise Road," is a brilliant exception though, with vocalist Tone Avenstroup contributing a monotoned, sung-spoken vocal over a dark, synthetic production. Besides wrestling a few pop songs into a free-form framework with taut guitar lines and primitivist electronics, Tarwater do accomplish plenty of intriguing combinations on this album, like the synthetic jew's harp, tribal percussion, and soft, flute-like synthesizers on "Phin," or the fractured electronics and paranoid soundscapes of "Tesla." Stranded halfway between electronica and pop though, the songs on Dwellers on the Threshold never rise beyond the level of odd, slightly endearing lo-fi experiments.

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