Carlos Niño had already more than proven his abilities as a producer and musician before he hooked up with Dexter Story to form the Life Force Trio, skills that are only emphasized on the band's debut full-length, Living Room. Niño acts as arranger and producer as well as instrumentalist on the record, and is -- with the exception of the final track -- the only constant from song to song (the name Life Force Trio is a bit confusing, as it is technically Niño and Story but also includes Dwight Trible, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Fabian Ammon, Gaby Hernandez, and Andres Renteria, the last two of whom wrote, performed, and produced the closer, "Orbit [Spaceways Radio Theme Forever"]). Not that this matters much, because the other musicians are all talented and committed to making and sustaining the laid-back, ambient-folk vibe that runs throughout the entire album, and the album succeeds because of this. While most of the instrumentation is electronic-based (Moog, keys, MPC), there are also acoustic guitars, violas, and live percussion and vocals that give Living Room a nice intimate feel. "The Shadows Took Shape," the second part of a nine-plus-minute song, has an almost Rio-lounge feel thanks to Hernandez's steady keyboards, but the drums are so airy and lazy and the other chords so long and slow that the piece hardly seems to be able to stay together, melting like a Dali painting until the third section, "Soulmates, Like Thunder and Lightning," finally takes over with its sure, definite drumbeat -- the first time that occurs in the album -- and matches nicely with the vocal jazz riffing that Trible adds as the song winds down. The whole thing is very atmospheric, but that's not to say it roams around without direction, aiming for ambience instead of a purpose. Because Living Room is about restraint as well as expression within various media, what matters is the subtlety that's found in the singular notes and chords, the overall effect and the individual intricacies. But that's what Niño's always done, so why should anyone have expected anything different?
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown