There isn't an arklark or a floatboat to be found on Roulette, but there is the familiar cascading echo of Robin Guthrie's guitar, along with his ever-developing production skills. With Siobhan de Mare, the former Cocteau Twin remains adept at picking ideal voices to compliment his comfy, womb-like constructs. That oft-copied sound that only he can truly pull off is carried forth in Violet Indiana. Difference-wise, there's an obvious movement toward songs with his new partner. That kind of goes without saying, since the Cocteaus' Liz Fraser built her niche with singular vocals that frequently avoided discernible English. Despite the breathy, come-hither vocals of de Mare, she's less of an instrument. One listen to this record on headphones in a darkened room will be the best way to demonstrate this duo's strengths, separating them from the lot of male/female duos that populate a record shop's trip-hop section. Guthrie's slow-thrust arrangements are spare and subtle, lightly jazzy most of the time, full enough to blow the song along, and not quite thick enough to be determined syrupy. These songs are fragile, although hardly qualifying as precious. The only song that sounds remotely radio friendly is "Sundance," which proves that Guthrie and de Mare can pen an emotional pop song as well as anyone else. De Mare takes a break from whispering and belts it out a little as Guthrie's guitar escalates endlessly. The remainder of the record slithers, glows, and throbs as well as any other intended for the bedroom, like the Golden Palominos' Pure or latter-day Lori Carson. Anyone who couldn't tolerate the Cocteau Twins' innate artsiness and vocal babblings just might find that Roulette goes down a treat. Just right for those who want a little more oomph in their ambient. Call it drip-hop.
by Andy Kellman