The line between electronic music and new age has always been a tenuous one. Give the two genres' penchants for druggy mysticism and synthetically generated soundscapes that rely on repetition and tone as opposed to melody and progression, it's has been easy for ambient dance groups like the Orb and Global Communication to attract fans of the "third eye" while many electronic fans have found themselves embarrassingly nodding their heads to any new age fodder with a beat. Los Angeles artist Peas pushes closer to the slight divide, producing this album of chill electronics remotely based on samples from new age figurehead and Japanese synth pioneer Kitaro. Fortunately, Peas remains adequately earthbound, although his compositional skill fails about as often as it succeeds. Take for example the opening cut, "Fences," a slow ambient builder of plucked piano strings and delayed vocal snippets. The build is inevitable, and as the cut slowly unravels, it reveals a shapely female voice. But when this would have been enough, Peas pushes too far, splitting the voice into two, then three, while the most cliché of key stabs come in to drive things much farther than they needed to go. The same sort of misjudgment plagues "Beat Break," although the accidental sitar at the beginning and end shouldn't really take away from the nicely chopped break that makes up 85 percent of the running time. That same sitar shows up to annoy "Spinning," although its presence is even more confounding given the song's '70s funk inspiration. Peas is certainly capable of making inspired and catchy electronica such as the driving break found on "Certifiable" and the Coldcut-styled "Never Stop the Music," which manages to be blunted beat yet uplifting soul at the same time. With Peas, the line between the well-done and the overdone is as fine as the electronica/new age tightrope he also walks.
by Joshua Glazer