Styrofoam: Nothing's Lost
Morr Music

In 2004, the Brussels-based Club Ancienne Belgique celebrated its 25 th anniversary by inviting Arne van Petegem (aka Styrofoam) to not only host a special concert but record parts of an album at the club's studios accompanied by guests of his choosing. Still, Ancienne Belgique personnel couldn't have anticipated that their invitation would translate into one of the most accomplished electronic pop albums of the year. The invitation proved serendipitous for van Petegem too as it enabled him to move from the overly dour I'm What's There To Show That Something's Missing to the buoyant uplift of Nothing's Lost. Oh sure, Styrofoam's signature melancholia is still present (the affecting vocal melodies on the anthemic, nine-minute closer “Make It Mine,” for example) but now wrapped in stunningly expansive arrangements and gorgeous melodies. The change is evident immediately when the supple vocal presence of Lali Puna's Valerie Trebeljahr surfaces on the downtempo “Misguided” but even more by the startling addition of Brendon Whitney's (aka Alias) MC turn. And while that opening sets the bar high at the outset, the beautiful “Couches In Alleys,” a poignant showcase for Ben Gibbard's (Death Cab For Cutie/The Postal Service) wistful singing, and the delicate “Your Eyes Only” surpass it. Even better, however, is “Front To Back” featuring Andrew Kenny's (American Analog Set) silky falsetto and a delectable weave of vocal counterpoint. Only the bubblegum electropop of “Anything” (with singing by Bent Van Looy and Miki Yoshimura) sounds a bit anomalous in this context, even if it does provide levity. Ultimately, Van Petegem's decision to share the spotlight with his impressive cast pays huge dividends for all concerned as Nothing's Lost joins The Postal Service's Give Up, The Go Find's Miami, März's Wir Sind Hier, and Lali Puna's Faking The Books as one more in a recent wave of superb electronic pop releases.

November 2004