For a time Lali Puna were a muscians favourite: Two Lone Swordsmen’s Andrew Wetherall attested to listening to Lali Puna on a ceaseless loop and they were hailed as the best act in the world in 2001 by Colin Greenwood of Radiohead, who also confessed to giving away 4 copies of their debut to friends to whom he had played their record and had subsequently fallen instantly in love with it; he called it “sublime song writing”. Its easy to see both the appeal to, and influence of, Lali Puna on Radiohead; the sparse arrangement and almost clinical sound, melodic clicks, loops, compressed electronic percussion, dead-pan vocals, interesting melodies, as electronica and indie were melded in a way that was soon to gain prevalence. All of which is high praise indeed, so it should be no surprise to find them on this list, but it still might be.
Lali Puna are inevitably grouped with fellow Weilheim, Germany alumni The Notwist and Ms John Soda (even sharing members) who all produced variations on this theme that can be seen as something of a forerunner to glitch, folktronica, laptop folk, laptop-pop and the likes. Unfortunately, this music has since become more synonymous with a new MOR, clean to the point of being soulless, hollow, background music for the new middle class, middle aged professional, grasping at trendy aloofness, picking up the latest copy of the Nouvelle Vague records to put in his CD collection alongside Moby and other easy listening tripe parading as electronica and, gulp, glitch-pop. More than anything its unmemorable if not downright boring lift muzak updated for the 21st century.
The subsequent crimes of what they influenced may be many, but its easy to forget all the Weilheim bands, apart from pioneering this sound at a time when it sounded genuinely innovative, largely retained good song writing and individuality, as well as risk-taking and producing songs that retained a challenging edge, and this is especially true of Lali Puna and The Notwist who consistently rose above blandness. Of course, they will always have Radiohead in their defence as well.
Although Lali Puna’s third album, 2004s Faking The Books, was largely seen as their weakest effort it contains possible the greatest example of the beauty in the clean simplicity of this music. The album shifted towards more traditional song structure, guitars being placed further to the forefront, although it left people largely cold at the time, the band accused of losing something of their uniqueness, sounding a little too much like their contemporaries, and producing an album that felt a little too close to Lali Puna by numbers, leaving little resonance.
However, the title track and album opener found them producing not only sublime song writing, but a tighter, more refined version of everything they had previously done, and everything glitch-pop could be at its best. Opening with stuttering vocal loops, a warm synth bassline, electronic bleeps that sound like a reassuringly warm radar console, and a trademark half spoken vocal that only hints at emotion, the song gradually adds layers, before bringing in a simple acoustic guitar line; it has all the beautiful simplicity without an obvious payoff moment, holding back and allowing the song space to breathe.
There is balance between the machine like precision and melody. Its surprising effective for such a minimal composition, it could just wash over you like so much of the releases that attempt something similar, but its strength is this gorgeous pared down austerity, its clean restraint, its modesty. This is the very reason you could listen to it on a continuous loop, as its intoned melody sinks into you, rising above emptiness. It’s clinical, but in the good sense, the sense that everything has meticulously found its place, working toward a synthetic perfection, even if it doesn‘t quite make it. A delicate pop composition that rises above the obvious pitfalls of its type and ensures its certainly memorable, sublime songwriting indeed. . . read more http://www.whatisthegrain.com