Dominique Leone Dominique Leone

[Strømland; 2008]

Styles:  avant-pop
Others: ELO, Boredoms, Of Montreal, Shining, Dan Deacon

Dominique Leone’s self-titled debut for Strømland seemingly reflects his own desire to reconcile a taste for the avant-garde with pop. The template for “Kaine,” the first song on the album, is one of those oddly perfect a+b=c equations, wherein the shiny pop of The Electric Light Orchestra is combined effortlessly with the bizarre noise dump of early Boredoms. If only the rest of the album were as consistently strong, it would have made for an endlessly replayable anomaly. As it stands, the record is certainly odd, but how many times you’ll replay it may depend on your stomach for the extremely saccharin. The rest of the album lacks the ‘what-the-fuck’ shock value of the first track, and in its place: layer after layer of harmonic consonance using only sources that are digital (or at least sound entirely digital). I’m sure Leone the human is hiding in there somewhere, but it certainly sounds to the ear like RoboDom is in full control.

Leone’s got a flair for the technical, and nowhere is that more apparent than on this album. Self-described as classically trained, Leone seems to be grappling with a problem that many classically trained musicians I know have: the ability to compose without the confines of the strict rulebook. What I’m getting at here is not that Leone lacks the ability to try to make things sound ‘wrong’ or ‘out-of-place,’ but that even these moments of fleeting danger seem tied to a meticulously crafted by-the-book pop framework. The ELO comparison is particularly apt for this reason, as well as other groups that craft elegant pop songs that are produced to the point of sounding rote and emotionless. The difference is that ELO worked that to their advantage, playing themselves up as “prog-pop,” with musicians mindful of making the minor concessions necessary to each song for the listener to know that there were people involved in making the music.

There are plenty of touchstones for those willing to wade through the entire album. Some parts remind me of Dan Deacon, others of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, and a few of Rune Grammofon group Shining. Some of it’s on the dancier side of electronic music. I’m sure Leone knew what he was doing making a record like this; he seems to be a purposeful type of guy, and I can respect where he’s coming from. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything worthwhile hiding under the façade of the album’s production. It’ll be more interesting to see where he goes next than endlessly ponder the merits of this one.

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