Steve Bug


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On his fifth album, Steve Bug seems simultaneously to be expanding his sonic palette and fundamentally playing it safe, resulting in a program that is enjoyable to listen to and easy to dance to, but that rarely truly surprises or stretches the ear. And maybe there's nothing wrong with that; after all, this is a dance record, not a graduate seminar on electronic music. But it's hard not to be a little disappointed that he isn't pushing things just a bit more. Consider, for example, the warm ambience and the slippery, shuffly rhythm of "Tell Me Why" -- a thoroughly enjoyable six-minute track, but one that settles maybe a bit too easily into its repetitive groove. The same is true of "No Adjustments," whose generic oon-tiss-oon-tiss house beat and almost sarcastic-sounding handclaps are energized not at all by Foremost Poets' throwaway spoken word lyrics. These tracks seem all the more lackluster when compared with the dark and grumpily funky "Serve Your Mistress" and the complex and engaging "Spiral Staircase." Then there's the subdued dubstep beat, the nerdy synthesizer, and the rockish guitar soloing on "Poison of Choice," all of which suggest that Bug is going to really start messing with us. But no. The jazzy, minimalist piano and smooth vocals on "Moment of Ease" and the relaxing, straight-ahead techno of "Somewhere in the Night" sweep that expectation away. "The Seventh Victim" ends the album with more of a whimper than a bang; the piano that was bracingly to-the-point on "Moment of Ease" seems aimless here, and the two-chord vamp feels more static and boring as well. The gently throbbing beat is nice enough, and the atmosphere is pleasant, but it's a curiously diffident end to an album that has generally, for better or for worse, at least always seemed to have the courage of its modest convictions.

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