Electric Company

Studio City

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Laner's second stand-alone album as Electric Company, not counting the Electric Company Plays Amnesia release, finds him well into the experimental techno/hip-hop that would dominate his later work under the name. A quick listen to the opening "Arbor Sirens" and it's no surprise that he would eventually end up being a close collaborator and friend with the likes of Kid 606. The hints of shimmering guitar from earlier work don't surface at all, at least in any easily recognizable form, even though there's credited guest guitar on one track from Brian Rosser. Instead, the emphasis lies with constantly shifting production and tempos, drum loops shot to hell and back, quirky keyboard lines cropping up every so often, noise paramount above all. Drum and bass approaches predominate, though often following in the line of more drill'n'bass-oriented efforts, combined with a fair dollop of weird, unsettling ambient layers. There are theoretically gentler songs like "Throb Ear," which actually has a core rhythm that carries through the track but still piles on the weird effects and fun tweaks, like a kiddie music box fed through all sorts of trickery and wired up to computers. It's facile to simply say that Laner incorporates the full range of Warp Records' mid- to late-'90s work on Studio City, but there's no question he's one of the best American exponents of such thrilling sounds. "Darken an' Slobbering," besides having a hilarious title, lives up to same, sounding like a speed-driven, nervous freak running at high speed through city streets while strange tones surround him. Studio City's an aggressive modern record for its time and all the better for it, catchy and pop when it wants to be but in a way completely unlike expected senses of the words.

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