Savant Garde

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The model of techno boffin/expressive singer has had any number of incarnations over the years -- Suicide, Soft Cell, Portishead, and more -- and it's in this lineage that Quasimojo clearly lies. It's a bit of twist here, in that it's a trio, with the musical duties split between percussionist Dean Williams and jack-of-all-trades Locksley Taylor, the latter taking time off from Sianspheric. (Taylor actually brings in the whole group for "Orange Room," adding some full-on wash to the crisp rhythm clips.) Singer Maureen Spillane completes matters with occasional singing that recalls Louise Rhodes' excellent work in Lamb, though the band tends toward far less immediately dramatic waters than that striking duo. Sonically, Savant Garde isn't necessarily trying for the reach the title punningly refers to, but it is a lovely twist on shoegaze, IDM, and trip-hop formulae that crossblends the three in often lovely ways. Opening song "Radio Alphabet India," though it lacks Spillane's singing, manages to be both gauzily gaze and subtly electronic, with a just-careful-enough lead-in. The tone set, the remainder of the album becomes a tag-team/tug-of-war between the three performers, very much making it feel like an evolving collaboration instead of an exact combination of elements. Spillane, for instance, more often than not gets her vocals tweaked, stuttered and twisted -- a common enough approach in IDM circles, but a bit of a surprise when dealing with a regular lead vocalist from another tradition. Understated drones and sparkling melodies get disrupted with brusquer beats in the finest Aphex Twin fashion, skittering rhythms find themselves caught up in soothing tones, often from a suddenly free-to-sing Spillane. There's something very promising here -- as well as a capturing of zeitgeist in the era of Manitoba and the newly revived/revamped Medicine -- which could yet become all the more successful with time.