Over the Atlantic: Junica

Previously issued on Bevan Smith's Involve Records label and now on Carpark (which released Smith's Low Light Dreams and The New Face Of Smiling under his Signer guise), Junica is a ten-song collection of bedroom-styled, laptop-electric guitar indie-pop fashioned by Smith and Nik Brinkman under the name Over the Atlantic. The duo sweetens its gentle, sometimes glorious dream-pop with swooning vocals (“Jess,” “Honest Words”) and roughens it up with loud guitar stabs (“Heart Land”), the latter an especially wise move since the heavy guitar dimension militates against the material sounding excessively twee. Sometimes the concept is pushed to an even greater extreme, as when molten guitar spreads like lava over the otherwise clean pop structures of “France,” incinerating it in the process.

It doesn't surprise that traces of The Postal Service can be detected in the vocals and melodies of “35 Black And White” but Over the Atlantic's sound ranges further. In fact, on tunes like “Glass Breaks,” Junica's somewhat nasal vocal style has more in common with The Mobius Band's Ben Sterling than Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard. A Beach Boys influence sometimes emerges in the material's vocal harmonies and counterpoint while shoegaze roar lights a fire under songs like “I Cannot Believe” and, yes, “Kevin Shields.” All of the album's songs are pop-song length except for the closer “Fly to the States,” an epic by comparison at nine-minutes. The duo makes the most of the opportunity, however, by gradually escalating the intensity to a ferociously burning pitch. Junica is a decent enough batch of pop songs though it's not in the same league as Give Up or James Figurine's recent Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake. Furthermore, Over the Atlantic's ‘band' sound is weakened by the programmed beats which are serviceable but generally static; consider how much more vital the The Mobius Band's live drumming sounds by comparison.

October 2006