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  • Filed under: Review
  • 04/19/2013

Pharaohs Replicant Moods

Replicant Moods doesn't aim to surprise—not in a way that will register at first, anyway. Enough has been written about the 100% Silk label over the past few years for many readers to have an accurate picture of the LA band's jammy, loose sprawl before pressing play. Having an aesthetic template turns out to be to Pharaohs' advantage, though. The group consists, unusually for synth bands that are not Kraftwerk, of four members, although the line-up's girth isn't exactly notable on record. The mix never suggests that there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and the participants' sensibilities average out nicely; while the album's title references LA anomie, the music itself offers pure outdoor-PA geniality without giving itself over to good-life So Cal clichés.

Instrumental tracks, such as the title cut, wander enough to showcase how casually frayed edges—like the song's prismatic spurts of piano roll—and an easygoing sense of fun have their place in dance music. Seen against the backdrop of the label's catalog, too, the members of Pharaohs aren't pushing themselves to sound edgy: they simply make up the self-effacing supergroup LA didn't know it needed. With Maria Minerva's guest spot on "Miraculous Feet," Pharaohs puts a finger on its low-pressure appeal. Minerva's act, as always, is based on her particular way of performing the sublime in the stupid and vice versa. Transplanted from her own melty production aesthetic into Pharaohs' dimensional, dubby disco backing, those modulations sound decisive and directed, far from her usual pomo hall of mirrors. It's an emblematic track for an album whose obvious choices, structure-wise, are also its best ones. That kind of range is nothing to sniff at; it's necessarily harder to do something established well than to emphasize the points of difference. So while "Everything" doesn't stand out for its originality either—its rousing vocal sample laid over rolling piano house is a well-established combination—the pieces fall together in a way that conveys a natural sense of camaraderie that's as hard to resist as the dead-simple Reese bassline that powers it forward.

The remainder of Replicant Moods is less driven than those two standouts, content to settle into funky, robotic nu-disco grooves that have been liberally seasoned with the additional ebb and flow of taut, busy synthwork. While the sounds Pharaohs favors tend to evoke familiar musical vocabularies, from satiny Italo to the clunky hustle of electro, what we ultimately hear are the imperfections that hold it together. Structurally, then, there's a hint of Frak's provisional, on-edge style in Replicant Moods. This is "jamming" as a deliberate balancing act rather than carte blanche to noodle. Only a handful of Replicant Moods' tracks make a lasting impression, but this foursome still consistently gets the entropy-to-pattern ratio just right.

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