Hollow Earth

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Powered by artists Pieter Bourke of Dead Can Dance fame and David Thrussell of electro acts Snog and Black Lung, Soma's debut, Hollow Earth, has the polish of veteran musicians. Bourke's organic influence wrapped around Thrussell's electro sensibilities creates exotic constructions that skirt the borders of ambience, techno-lite and soundtrack with a vocabulary that is both stylish and deep. Soma nest layers of acoustica and electronica to create their unique and variable tone. "Soma Romanz" is founded on a solid techno beat interspersed with electro pulses and a syncopated cowbell, and driven by a hauntingly simple, wordless female vocal sample. By contrast, "Sleepwalker" is much lighter and more mechanistically electro fare that approaches ambient techno. In parts of Hollow Earth, the obvious electronica recedes. "God Sends the Meat and the Devil Cooks" is a journey detailed with spaghetti-western guitar, rhythmically complex bongo, and a faraway synth melody. Soma has got complexity and depth, but it's not necessarily music that will keep you still. However, Soma's subtle darkness dodges between the poles of upbeat and brooding. One of the high points of Hollow Earth is "Dark Koma," in which another haunting female vocal plays a counterpoint against a screeching synth that threatens to overtake the melody, against electro bells and all-too-real percussions. As in most of Hollow Earth, the balance between elements is delicate and perfectly defined. Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of the release is that this tension itself is hard to sustain -- tracks such as "The Subterranean" and "Corporate Anthem Part 1" may threaten to become easy background music for some listeners. Hollow Earth may not reveal itself fully at first glance, but that is half the pleasure of getting to know this release. Energetic yet engaging, Hollow Earth is the music of imagined scenes that may take some time to settle, but is worth every moment.

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