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Posted on July 29th, 2013 (8:45 am) by Chase Woodruff

"This is an EP, sort of," says Drew Harris of Star System, his seventh and latest release under the Germany Germany moniker. At ten tracks and a half-hour long, it's a record that defies easy classification, but it's precisely in such gray areas that Harris, a recent graduate of the University of Victoria, manages to thrive. This is dream pop, sort of. This is bedroom music, sort of. Star System is a warm breeze, an album that drifts pleasantly by, a fleeting comfort that carries the promise of greater things to come. Sort of.

Since 2010's Distorted Disco evolved from a class project and began making the rounds on indie music blogs, Germany Germany has endured as something like the platonic ideal of a buzzband while avoiding the pitfalls of overexposure and backlash the term so often connotes. A free release on Harris' own label, Star System boasts no shotgun-wedded collaborations, no brand-name production team, no marketing budget, no manufactured hype — just thirty minutes of fluid, accessible instrumental pop, right from his laptop to untold thousands of ours. There are few better avatars of the new digital normal, the democratized, DIY landscape that grants an engineering student sitting in his dorm room the power to explore such a vast universe of possibilities.

Perhaps it’s this notion that informs Star System’s overt cosmological theme. Its first four tracks all follow the same basic structure: plaintive, paper-thin acoustic guitars propelled by throbbing, nu-disco bass lines and all manner of melodic electro baubles, the one tangibly human element rocketed forth into the great unknown by the engines and gadgetry of the future. Are these new technologies really at our command, or is it the other way around? “I can’t find my way,” intones Harris in a rare vocal contribution to “Find Your Way.” “I’ll be there,” he insists one track later on “Decathect,” sounding still not quite sure where it is he’s being taken.

This is the first Germany Germany endeavor to lean so heavily on Harris’ live guitar playing, and unfortunately, it’s clear why. What he can do passably with an axe is far less interesting than what he can do expertly with a MIDI controller; after a gusty sawtooth interlude breathes some needed life into “Decathect,” don’t be surprised to find yourself let down when Harris’ acoustic noodling creeps back in moments later. With a full-length follow-up to last year’s Blank Mind Empty Heart purportedly on the way, a stopgap like Star System might have been a chance for serious experimentation, and dabbling in Western civilization’s most familiar instrument doesn’t exactly qualify.

Is it unfair to expect more from an artist who has simply found his niche, who has delivered a steady, prolific output of free music — who has done all this, by the way, while graduating from college with an engineering degree? Maybe. But while there’s no sense in pretending Star System is Harris’ best work — or that there aren’t hundreds of better records that will be released this year — he’s shown enough genuine talent here and in past efforts to raise the grading curve a bit. Germany Germany may or may not be destined for pop greatness, but in a galaxy with so many stars, what is greatness, anyway?

Track List:
1. Youth
2. Find Your Way
3. Decathect
4. IV
5. Star System
6. Softer
7. Apollo
8. VIII
9. Luminescent
10. Saturn

Germany Germany Star System EP cover
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

60 / 100
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