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  City Island  
  The Artificial Sea  
  Travelling Music  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  

There was a theory some years ago that singers influenced by Jim Morrison tended to be better than those influenced by David Bowie, with Iggy and Ian Curtis being cited as examples of the Morrison corner and Pete Murphy and Richard Butler featuring amongst the alleged inferiors in, er, Camp Bowie. Obviously, this is a matter of opinion that fans of Bauhaus and The Psychedelic Furs will vehemently disagree with, but I guess the gist of the idea was that some singers are just too distinctive to be influenced by, whereas a Morrison protégé could happily claim that he just happens to be a bloke with a deep voice. Another Bowie-like example would be Bjork, as - love her or hate her – she has perhaps the most distinctive voice of the last twenty years, so any singer who sounds influenced by such a unique set of tonsils as hers is going to find the comparisons hard to avoid. I mention this because there are times when Alina Simone, the singer with The Artificial Sea, sounds like the Icelandic Pixie to a rather unnatural degree.

City Island, released on French label Travelling Music, opens with Gloryhole, which perhaps features the most extreme vocal performance here as Simone indulges in some Bjork-like singing around the melody. It's interesting, but I should warn you that it is likely to result in small children clutching their ears and yelling, “Mummy. Tell the mad woman to stop”. The Light Of 1000 Televisions is better though, as Simone "du-du's", whilst a Jah Wobble like-bass riff looms large in the mix before things get more filmic towards the end. Probably the highlight of the album for me. Tunnel Vision, however, is pure Bjork, as Simone sings a haunting melody over a Post-era like string section, although the beats hint at Bjork's more recent output. It's an enjoyable number, but really…there's influence and then there's plagiarism!

Ride This Thing trots along nicely with some nice arrangements, whilst Vor is another with a prominent Wobble-like bassline. If you've ever lay awake at night wondering what Public Image might have sounded like if Bjork or Beth Gibbons had been their singer rather than John Lydon, then this may give you some interesting pointers. Things We Spent is another slow Bjork-like one, whilst Happy Ending sounds like Portishead with its trip-hop beat and Gibbons-ish vocals. Better Living features radio samples about tripping, over eerie noises and a beat that's half military, half trip hop, whilst Outpost finds Simone sounding like The Cranberries' Delores O'Riordan over a White Town type beat and an incongruous sax. Thankfully the lyrics aren't as bad as DOR is known for – lest we forget, O'Riordan once came up these truly awful words on I Just Shot John Lennon:

“ It was the fearful night of December 8th
He was returning home from the studio, late
He had perceptively known that it wouldn't be nice
Because in 1980, he paid the price
John Lennon died, John Lennon died, John Lennon died…."

The Cranberries connection doesn't end there though, as interestingly the word "bomb" figures in this number, and god knows Delores liked singing about them. The albums ends with Milemarker which, to be perfectly honest, is something of a dirge. A totally underwhelming way to conclude matters.

Whether it's a freak of nature that Simone sounds so like Bjork (and to a lesser degree Beth Gibbons) or whether she's allowing her influences to overwhelm her, I don't know. There's some interesting ideas here, notably on The Light Of 1000 Televisions and Ride This Thing, but I really can't help thinking that The Artificial Sea still need to find their own voice.

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