All Apologies: Nine Stories
Symbolic Interaction

Inhabiting the poppier end of the electronica spectrum, Nine Stories is the brainchild of All Apologies, a neo-pop unit formed in 2007 by flau artist Geskia! & (Forka). The group's debut album features nine songs heavy on whispered vocals and a stylistic fusion of shoegaze, electropop, and hip-hop. You'll have a hard time deciphering the words, given how breathily they're sung, but the music hardly rises or falls on the lyrical content; All Apologies could be reciting a laundry list for all the difference it would make to the music's impact. In other words, the vocals function as a prominent sonic texture within lush arrangements already teeming with a kaleidoscopic wealth of sounds (piano, synthesizers, guitars, drum programming, vinyl crackle) rather than as a vehicle for social commentary. While the ultra-dense “White Whale” pushes the album in a funkier direction and the downtempo sparkle of “Setting Sun” hits admirably hard, the album leans more often than not in the direction of a pretty serenade such as “July, July,” and stately mini-epic such as “Meteor Stream.” If there's a weakness to All Apologies' rich sound, it's that the vocals are largely unvarying in their presentation so while they're eminently capable of riding the melodic waves they're rather limited in their range of emotional expressiveness. The exceptions to the rule in this case are the brief lamentation “Fog/Lost,” where vocal fragments become part of the emotive fabric, and the crackling head-nodder “Man from Desert,” where the presentation of vocals sans multi-tracking allows the singing to resound more naturally.

Nine Stories is generously complemented by a second disc of remixes of six of the debut's songs. Part of the fun here is hearing the contributors' wildly different takes on the same original, with “Man from Desert,” for example, getting three: Maps and Diagrams gives it a shoegaze upgrade, Scam Circle dirties it up with experimental hip-hop grime, and ee-mu's regrettable version goes off the deep end with an over-the-top, sea-sick treatment (arriving immediately after, Ian Hawgood's tasteful handling of “Air” can't arrive too soon). Makoto Yamaguchi chops the vocal into fragments in his twitchy glitch-funk overhaul of “Air,” Pawn gives “Setting Sun” a glitchy and skittering makeover, and Akar sends “Meteor Stream” on a synthesizer-heavy space trip (a shame, though, so much interference had to be present too). Sabi's tranquil “July, July,” overhaul ends what's in truth an unnecessary but not unwelcome (one track excepting) bonus disc.

July 2009