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  Faking the Books  
  Lali Puna  
  Morr Music  
Release Date:
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A few years ago, i noted that a lot of wonderful music was coming out of the Eastern Canadian region. These days, it seems, there is more and more good music coming out of Germany. There is Ulrich Schnauss, The Notwist, Morr Music and their compilations, and Lali Puna.

Of course, Lali Puna's current lineup includes Notwist guitarist Marcus Acher, so i guess there is some cross-pollination going on in the Deutschland scene these days. Nonetheless, Lali Puna's latest, Faking The Books, is a stunning release.

The music involves electronic noises, live drumming, sparse chiming guitar, and the vocals of Valerie Trebeljahr. She sings ... well, like a German. There is something about German pronunciation of English that seems distant or cold. I dunno what it is, but listening to her you think, "Yup, a German fraulein."

This is perfectly summed up on B-Movie, a tune which features incredible drumming and a swirling, noisy chorus. But the lyrics are sung in an almost stereotypical manner. "It's like, in a B-movie/You always know what's coming next." That simple repeated phrase is so crisp and clear that you almost expect her to be scowling down her long thin nose at you while she tosses her long blonde hair. And yet, the music behind her is catchy and joyous…

Aside from her vocals, the guitarwork that Acher turns in is excellent. He plays very lightly, with a real economy of notes. Every chord is precisely timed and exactly in its place, without any unnecessary excess. After repeated listens, i think that this style of playing is what The Dismemberment Plan were hinting at on their last two releases. There is as much guitarwork in the silence between chords and the echo that lingers after the notes as there is in the actual strumming of the strings.

Acher stands out most on Grin and Bear, which reminds me of Pilot off of the last Notwist album, and Micronomic, which really sounds as if it was taken from the follow-up to Change, and succeeds in being annoying catchy. (Try it -- the damned thing sticks in your head for days!)

The drumming is loud and fast and moves. Drummer Christoph Brandner really knows his stuff. He drives the excellent B-Movie along, and also lays down a really great beat on Call 1-800-fear, which is really a dance tune more than a pop song.

The final band member is keyboardist Florian Zimmer, who shines in the pianowork on Small Things, although Zimmer also provides nice accents throughout the album.

There are also some IDM elements strewn about, but i have no idea which band member is responsible for them. For example, Faking The Book takes Lali Puna's catchy pop and slows it down a bit, before adding strange noises and pops and crackles. The end result, when you throw Trebeljahr's voice over it, is highly reminiscent of Múm: mellow, quiet, very precise and ordered, and rather lovely.

I almost want to say that this album is over-produced. Almost. There was obviously a lot of time spent mixing it and cleaning up the various sounds that go into it. And there is a certain sparkle to the music that only really polished stuff gets. I usually tend to like a little bit of messiness in my sound -- when things seem too squeaky clean, it normally leaves me bored. However, Faking the Books doesn't do that to me. I don't know what it is, but the recording was polished to an almost blinding shine, and yet it still seems to breathe and feel human. That is, i think, a rather remarkable feat of studio wizardry.

Overall i am very impressed with this album. If you like catchy pop music with great drumming and funky electro/keyboard bits, then Faking The Books is an obvious purchase.

Related Links:

Lali Puna were featured on the Morr Music compilation, Blue Skied an' Clear.
Guitarist Marcus Acher has his own band, The Notwist.


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