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Posted on October 5th, 2011 (1:27 pm) by Trevor Read

One of the things I’ve always loved about ambient electonica is its ability to reconcile the distance between the organic and synthetic. While a substantial amount of ambient music is created digitally, it is often designed to evoke images of the natural world and engender feelings of mysticism, wonder and spiritual transcendence. Executed correctly, it’s an awe-inspiring fusion of opposites. Genre veterans like Solar Fields, Aes Dana and Hands Upon Black Earth consistently hit the aesthetic high-water mark, forging subliminal pastorals with artificial sound.

The Sea of Memories, the debut album from Swedish electronic duo Pallers, doesn’t quite achieve this level of synesthesia. Many of their samples--seemingly culled from the GarageBand library--are too blatty or chirpy to trick the listener into mistaking them for anything other than synthetic noise, ruining the effect. A few songs incorporate “real” instruments (mostly keys and guitar) and wide-open, spatial processing, but not enough to create an overall sensation of organic symmetry.

It’s a simple case of semantics. Although self-described as “atmospheric”, Pallers’ music is closer in spirit to chillwave or down-tempo electropop. The Sea of Memories is largely characterized by bright, subtle synthetics and the duo’s soothing vocals--better fit for soundtracking summer roadtrips than inspiring navel-gazing. It’s easy to see where atmospherics influenced Pallers’ songwriting, but their work--although pleasant--is far from genre-defining.

That’s probably why some of the most successful songs on The Sea of Memories are those that maintain a pop feel. “Come Rain, Come Sunshine” (the album’s first single), “Humdrum” and “The Kiss” are full of buoyant synth leads and dancey beats, the latter featuring some truly catchy oriental chord progressions. Pallers demonstrate equal finesse with their down-tempo tracks. “Wired” flows along serenely, backed by robo-angelic harmonies, while “Nights” closes the album with somber elegance, wistful vocals and dreamy piano keys.

The Sea of Memories is completed by a couple of redundant instrumental tracks (“Tropical Fishbowl”, “Sound of Silence”) and a club-worthy misfire. “Wicked,” the only song on the album to guest-feature female vocals, is a little too house-synthy for its own good. It breaks the spell of an otherwise enjoyable first outing.

Genre-bending isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Pallers could probably benefit from playing extremes. With atmospherics lacking organic undertones and thin, slow electropop lacking real exuberance, it might be helpful for the duo to push their aesthetic limits. The Sea of Memories isn’t without its gems; they just need a little extra polish.

Track List
1. Another Heaven
2. Humdrum
3. Come Rain, Come Sunshine
4. Tropical Fishbowl
5. Years Go, Days Pass
6. The Kiss
7. Sound of Silence
8. Wired
9. Wicked
10. Nights

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Our Rating

74 / 100
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