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As their commercial fortunes as the Thompson Twins diminished significantly during the latter half of the '80s, Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie relocated to Currie's native New Zealand, rechristening themselves as Babble. Although it wasn't the quirky new wave-inflected pop of their former act, Babble wasn't a major departure either, focusing more on the moody, dreamy feel inherent in hits such as "Hold Me Now" and "Lay Your Hands on Me." With its Eastern flavorings and weaving new age ambience, Ether, the duo's 1996 release, doesn't build on The Stone, their initial offering, resulting in a pleasant -- if fairly unadventurous -- listening experience. The most satisfying tracks are those on which Currie sings lead, such as the slinky "Just Like You" (which is reminiscent of Garbage's more subdued moments) and the ethereal "Hold the Sky." But with the lyrics mostly consisting of simple phrases chanted repeatedly over repetitive, hypnotic rhythms, most of the tracks tend to blur into one another, leaving them indistinguishable. Ether neither provides the hooks that made the Thompson Twins a guilty pleasure nor is it enterprising enough to merit attention from trip-hop fans. Instead, it proves to be aptly titled.

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