Lali Puna: I Thought I Was Over That: Rare, Remixed and B-Sides
Morr Music

Lali Puna's latest spreads 79-minutes of music across two discs, with tracks from compilations (Putting the Morr Back in Morrissey, Blue Skied an' Clear) and EPs (Left Handed, Micronomic) paired with new and unreleased material. The quartet wisely expands the album's scope beyond multiple samplings of its own lush songcraft with remixes by luminaries like Dntel, Two Lone Swordsmen, Alias, and Sixtoo. In doing so, the group subjugates its sound but rather than weakening the album it enriches it; for instance, a skanky hip-hop flavour enters the album via Boom Bip's take on “Awaiting an Accident,” a nice fusion of turntable effects and head-nodding beats with Lali Puna's melancholy uplift. Instrumentals lend additional contrast to the collection but, while they're appealing enough, the absence of Valerie Trebeljahr's vocals renders them less captivating. While the group's songs are distinguished by infectious hooks and rich arrangements, Lali Puna's essence is unquestionably Trebeljahr's voice, whether delivered in an oft-used voiceover (“Clear Cut,” “The Daily Match,” “Together in Electric Dreams”) or a seductive coo (“40 Days,” “Faking the Books,” “Alienation”).

Two new tracks were recorded for the collection but neither is especially memorable. The album opens with an instrumental overture swathed in layers of static flutter (“The Failure of the Leading Sign Industry”) that's pretty but of little consequence, while a motorik rock pulse in the melodically undistinguished “Past Machine” (originally written for John Peel) spotlights the group's heavier side. Other instrumentals fare better, starting with Lali Puna's own “Harrison Reverse,” an effective setting of guitar phasing effects and flutter, and Boom Bip's “Micronomic” remix where the punchy attack of Bryan Hollon's rapid guitar picking and drum machines is almost strong enough to compensate for the omission of Trebeljahr's vocal (though she appears as a distorted snippet at the end). Aside from an occasional whisper, her voice is also absent in Thomas Leboeg's (Iso 68) “Nin-Com-Pop” remix but it's nonetheless an artful slice of electro-minimalism (even if the original is rendered virtually unrecognizable); adding crackling and firefly synth effects, Andrew Weatherhall and Keith Tenniswood give the same song an unusual nocturnal twist in their own Two Lone Swordsmen remix. “Left handed-Dub” is hardly a match for the vocal material and ultimately sounds like the kind of thing a band might play while the singer is offstage making a clothing change.

As mentioned, the remixes bring contrast to the album, a quality nowhere more evident than in the juxtaposition of Dntel's “Faking the Books” treatment with To Rococo Rot's “Grin and Bear” remix (both previously unreleased). Jimmy Tamborello gives the beautiful original an Arabian feel by pairing Trebeljahr's vocal with handclaps, drum rolls, and oud-like guitar playing, while “Grin and Bear” presents an interesting if not entirely convincing fusion of To Rococo Rot's cerebral shimmy and labyrinthine keyboard patterns with the group's warm whispers. The earliest piece, Flowchart's chugging 2000 remix of “Fast Forward” chops Trebeljahr's voice into machine-like fragments.

Four songs shine most brightly, however. The melancholy of Lali Puna's delicate melodies and Trebeljahr's spoken voice prove an irresistible combination in “The Daily Match” while the group's delectable Slowdive cover “40 Days” and heavenly electro-pop treatment of Giorgio Moroder and Phil Oakey's “Together in Electric Dreams” are album highlights. Best of all, Brendon Whitney's beautifully paced “Alienation” makeover brings a whole new dimension to the typically even-tempered Lali sound. Building tension masterfully, Alias floats Trebeljahr's gorgeous vocal and the song's ravishing melodies over a rambunctious, percolating groove that explodes at its close with three massive cymbal smashes. The album's generally an embarrassment of riches. Even with an occasional lapse in quality, there remains a plenitude of great music-making and an ample supply of the group's trademark commingling of ennui and melodicism.

June 2005