Music News

Minotaur Shock

Experimental pop is a dicey label. At first take, the two words seem an oxymoron. But consider the Arcade Fire and the Mars Volta: Each is in its own way described dead-on by the term, which is vague enough to avoid reductionism but still evocative of the razor's-edge tap dance both bands successfully perform. Condensing sea-splashed electronic wilderness into glistening, compact gems, Minotaur Shock, then, is experimental pop. And it's gorgeous.

Brit drummer David Edwards has confessed an affinity for throwback FM grandeur, à la Steely Dan, Alan Parsons Project, and ELO. Minotaur Shock, his one-man apothecary of acoustic/electronic mood elevators, conceals the feathered-hair, synth-washed melodrama of those giants behind deceivingly serene, downtempo compositions. (Think a more structured Boards of Canada.) The songs on Maritime, his first U.S. release after a few U.K. EPs, are nautically themed, hinted by titles like "(She's in) Dry Dock Now" and "Six Foolish Fishermen." Edwards battens down a submerged sensation with these 11 languid (so close to liquid) reveries, tides of machine beats and cold keys swaying into the brisk boom-bap of live drums, acoustic guitar, and woodsy clarinet. Not exactly melancholy, these songs are misty, like a fog-shrouded coastline or a distant, savored memory. And while they're diffuse and digitized, they're also held under a tight grasp, Edwards' succinct arrangements a wink and nod back to a more indulgent era. Pulsing with coagulated emotion, Maritime is a rare treasure: experimental in its process but pop in its outcome.

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Jonathan Zwickel