Midaircondo: Shopping for Images

Though the Shopping for Images title might coyly flirt with superficiality, don't be deceived: the trio of attractive Swedish lasses constituting Midaircondo—Lisa Nordström, Lisen Rylander, and Malin Dahlström—is anything but this year's Bananarama. Founded in Gothenburg in December 2002, the group fashions a distinctive acoustic-electronic fusion from laptops, samplers, flutes, saxophones, and vocals with a given song typically layering sultry singing and sax musings over a churning electronic-industrial base. The trio's atmospheric material often originates out of jam sessions, resulting in recorded material that's structurally coherent yet also open-ended and explorative.

Midaircondo's sound emerges boldly with breathy soprano sax whorls and mantra-like title utterances in the lulling overture “Eva Stern, Shake It” while industrial loops pair with buzzing synth streams and an insistent acoustic bass ostinato in “Could You Please Stop,” the title again repeated by increasingly desperate vocals. Both songs are fine but bettered by the album's first peak, the stately torch anthem “Serenade.” Prodded by a haunting piano motif, the song is distinguished by an impassioned, soul-drenched vocal and enhanced by serpentine masses of woodwinds. Also memorable is the dirge “Sorry,” particularly when the close-miked voice sensuously pleads, its every cooing inflection front and center.

Lest anyone be tempted to label the group a female vocal trio, Midaircondo includes instrumentals on the album too. “Who's Playing,” a meditative setting of kalimba playing and phasing effects, may remind some listeners of Colleen while the aggressive soundscape “Lo-Fi Love” stokes a dense industrial broil before blunt piano notes intrude, making room for bright vocal exhalations to emerge. Here and elsewhere, the group enriches its material with imaginative touches, like the found sounds of coins and bells that coalesce into squalling carnival rhythms in the soulful romp “Perfect Spot.” The set reaches an entrancing close with “I'll Be Waiting” as phantom sax lines float above a repeating base of glimmering tones and soft voices.

Similarities to other artists do sometimes surface: one could easily imagine Björk, for instance, singing “Could You Please Stop” while “Sorry” exudes the free-floating dreaminess so memorably nurtured by Susanna and her Magical Orchestra on List of Lights and Buoys. But despite such parallels, Midaircondo's electroacoustic fusion stakes out its own unique ground on the marvelous Shopping for Images.

October 2005