Strange Lives

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Strange Lives Review

by Fran├žois Couture

Strange Lives is the first album by the electronica outfit Metaphor (not to be confused with a progressive rock group by the same name). At its basis is a live recording from October 1999, but many overdubs and extra tracks have been added to form a free-flowing DJ set of ambient electronica. And yet, the group doesn't stick to pure electronics, far from it: Acoustic and electric instruments and even voice are added to the mix -- not sampled, mind you, but performed. John Mika's synths and samplers and Fred Teasley's spacy electric guitar provide most of the grooves, moods, and textures. The guitar sounds very close to Robert Fripp's '90s soundscapes, minus the manic looping. Its airborne qualities lift the music. Tim Donahue on bass guitar underpins the riffs, while Mike Croswell adds various touches, from harmonica and accordion to theremin and electronic PVC pipes that create strange drones. A couple of guests help out -- throat singer Steve Sklar is particularly enjoyable. Strange Lives is chill-out meets Peter Gabriel's definition of worldbeat meets Fripp's ambient music. And no, it is not that far-fetched a fusion. Metaphor integrates all these influences very well, in a way reminiscent of the Freight Elevator Quartet (although it doesn't stray as much into experimental territory and remains more laid-back). The music wraps you up in a blanket. Too comfortable? Maybe just a bit. That's why, however pleasing it is, the album doesn't leave a lasting impression once it stops spinning. But it's still worthy of your time.

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