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ceo

White Magic


[Modular; 2010]



By ; June 29, 2010 


Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

By disregarding the particular brand of attention and hype White Magic will inevitably be received with, and evaluating the album only on the quality of its content, it can be said that the Swedish Eric Berglund, formerly one-half of the duo The Tough Alliance, here under the moniker of ‘ceo’, has created an LP filled with a general mood of vague optimism, cluttered tracks, and, unfortunately, not much else. The sounds and themes are familiar enough: the electro-pop bounce, the synths, the thrift-shop record samples, and all the other audio accoutrements that young electronic artists seem to be obsessed with these days. But since Berglund does not utilize these well-worn tools to create a type of sound that is a representation of one person’s view of the world—that is, because he does not create something unique (listen to the most recent solo efforts from Panda Bear or Berglund’s fellow countryman, Jens Lekmen, for high grade examples of successfully created unique world views) —the listener will ultimately find him or herself to be quite bored, even on a first listen. This boredom with the album’s sound is, unfortunately, only made all the worse by Berglund’s shallow lyrics and occasionally whiney delivery.

The 29-minute album is comprised of eight tracks that never crack the five-minute mark. Six of the songs all clock in at under four minutes. Such length is typically an artistic gamble; songs can either feel bigger and deeper if they’re concise and well-crafted (like how a movie can hint at a world much larger than the one depicted on screen for an hour and a half). Or, If the songs are disorganized and not well executed, as the majority of the songs are on White Magic, then the album will come across like it is still in draft form, unfinished and waiting for a final few edits of polish and improvement. By way of example, “Come With Me,” track 7: the song opens with a fade-to-scene synth, some modulated ringtones, a basic drum pattern bass line, and an audio loop of a male voice matter-of-factly saying “I keep it real,” likely a vinyl-ripped sample. Then, as the synths continue to whitewash the background and the audio-loop wears out its welcome, Berglund sings, “Come with me/ to a place I call reality/ come with me/ neither up nor down, it’s a special life you see/ come with me, would you sacrifice this life to make it real?” The loosely arranged elements of the song and the high school poetry lyrics give the track a bedroom-produced feel.

For some artists, this sort of delivery and execution can be charming in its own way. Not so though here, and not with Berglund. The lack of any cohesion between the music and the lyrical content muddle the song’s intent and negate the intimacy and immediacy that a bedroom-esque track can evoke; the end-result in “Come With Me” is a song that feels flimsy and aesthetically amateur.

The album’s one shinning moment comes from its title track; a moody, electro-tribal-banger that swiftly glides forward as a super-slick bassline and clever sample-pattern foreground an appropriately sparse Berglund singing and echoing in the background. (Expect with open arms a rash of club-ready remixes of this one.) If the rest of the album’s seven tracks share one trait, it is how stark in contrast they are to the title track. “White Magic” is simple, elegant, and more than the sum of its parts. It is not plagued by any I-just-found-the-orchestra-strings-button-on-my-keyboard banality; nor is it unnecessarily saturated with excessive randomness (i.e. a sound of a sword being pulled from a sheath, over and over again, on “No Mercy”).

It’s obvious that Berglund has educated himself on the most popular trends and tropes of the electro-pop genre. It’s obvious too that Berglund has decided on his first solo effort to forgo offering an opinion or reinterpretation of these tropes and trends and chose to instead craft an artifact of proof of his education. No doubt, he has graduated from the school of ‘What’s In’ with high-marks; one hopes he will put this knowledge to good use on future projects.


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