Half a True Day

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Half a True Day Review

by Fran├žois Couture

Released several years after Invisible Map, Biota's previous album of new material, Half a True Day, was overdue. However, it may not be to every fan's liking, and it probably won't win over new ones. Yet, all of Biota's usual ingredients are present and accounted for: the accordion and piano; the toys, small percussion, and assorted knickknacks; the odd voices; the electro-acoustic treatments -- in other words, all the contrasting elements (acoustic/electronic, familiar/foreign, melodious/abstract) that made previous Biota albums little aural wonders. Paradoxically, Half a True Day may be the album where Biota aims most clearly at "cinema for the ear" (it is better approached as a continuous 70-minute work than as 17 autonomous pieces), but it is its least successful attempt in that regard. Something simply does not click. The mix is again extremely deep, with layer upon layer of superimposed instruments and textures, a Biota trademark if there ever was one. However, this time around, this sonic soup remains rather under-defined, unclear. And, unlike with previous releases, this fog never clears up to let a beautiful melody shine through. The listener is bombarded with dozens of seemingly unrelated sounds (for example: oud, accordion, and drums, each following its own tempo in "Passerine") and left to make sense out of them. After two minutes of a cute tune being buried in aural goo, the tune quits and you realize that there were actually two strands, two pieces of music running simultaneously and battling for your attention. Maybe a less-is-more approach would have been beneficial. Or Biota should move toward 5.1 surround mixes to help us isolate and correlate all the musical information piled up between the left and right speakers. In any case, Half a True Day is a very demanding listen, with few rewards for your efforts.

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