Saint Etienne

Places to Visit

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A year after Good Humour was released in the U.S. on the renowned indie label Sub Pop, St. Etienne assembled an EP designed specifically for the American market. Where Good Humour celebrated the group's knack for sunny, stylish pop, Places to Visit returns St. Etienne to their dance roots, and this time, they've decided to go experimental. Throughout the EP, the core trio of Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell is augmented with guest musicians, engineers and producers, including such luminaries as Sean O'Hagan and Jim O'Rourke, as well as keyboardists Gerard Johnson and Ian Catt. The end result isn't strictly about songs, but it isn't quite about grooves, either, since all but two of the six tracks are over very quickly -- just as the pulsating synths and drum machines begin to create intriguing, even mesmerizing, soundscapes, it all fades away. Instead of satisfying, Places to Visit merely teases. Still, everything here is quite provocative, and it's refreshing to hear St. Etienne again strengthing their dance and electronica connections. Chances are, the will prove to be a pivotal transition instead of a detour, since the cuts here suggest that the group has not exhausted their flirtation with experimental, atmospheric electronica.

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