Jimmy Edgar Color Strip

[Warp; 2006]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: techno/R&B fusion
Others: Jamiroqui, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Jamie Lidell

Producer/musician Jimmy Edgar extends his aesthetic in a number of directions that border on the ridiculous. By tossing sex-you-up vocals and porn-ready electric piano into grinding Detroit techno, he gets our mouths watering for some Midnight Vultures camp, and by slathering the whole package in the studio equivalent to top-shelf hair gel, he applies a glossy finish that makes us think he might be serious, sending visions of "Virtual Insanity" charging across the synapses. Instead of a steamy club or a decrepit warehouse, these sounds seem best suited for an Ikea; the only place you're likely to find folks shaking their asses to this record would be a Gap dressing room during a jeans sale. Consumer culture punchlines come practically built in to Color Strip, and it doesn't laugh along with us.

The album does justify its existence, though, in the same manner as Edgar's previous EPs have: these songs move. Beats and synths constantly turn over on one another while mutant keyboard lines solo like Daft Punk guitars, churning and enveloping like the most polyphonic Timbaland or Neptunes productions. This sense of energy and need to constantly reimagine the simplest of motifs gives Color Strip a substantive base that more than compensates for its surface's smarmy residue.

As with any work that acts as a page-turner for the cold and rational, this music lives and dies by its ability to be readily engaging; if Edgar doesn't provide us with fluid polyrhythms to dissect or thrilling melodic counterpoints, all we have is a slop bucket of po-faced mall culture bump 'n' grind. Fortunately, Edgar keeps us locked in with well-developed nuances for most of the album: "Pret'a'porter" blends clicks, breathy vocal utterances, an acid synth line, and cool jazz keys into a layered bounce that blurs the line between percussive and melodic effects; "LBLBDetroit" matches a scuttling, regimented groove to the sauciest elevator music ever made; "Of the Silent Variety" flies with arena rock bombast, with every keyboard and synth locked into "cascading" mode.

He never rescues himself from the danger of losing the plot with a minute of doldrums, though, and this is exactly what happens in the middle of the album, in which Global Communications-style ambience and monotonous pulses blend into cookie-cutter slop. It's tempting to eject the disc as soon as you realize that "Telautraux" is about as interesting as an EBS transmission, and the next couple of tracks don't offer much encouragement for sticking in there. While these kinds of slippages would be more forgivable in a more stimulating context, any enjoyment to be found in Color Strip's standout cuts is already tenuous and conditional enough that the album's lowlights will be a dealbreaker for all but the most invested pairs of ears.

1. Pret'a'porter
2. My Beats
3. I Wanna Be Your STD
4. LBLBDetroit
5. Personal Information
6. Telautraux
7. Hold It Attach It Connect It
8. Jefferson Interception
9. Of the Silent Variety
10. Semierotiic
11. Color Strip Warren

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