Like BBC DJ John Peel explained the Fall, Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber's slowly evolving Tosca project are a case of "always the same, always different." The Viennese duo's 2013 effort, Odeon, is certainly tangibly different than 2009's No Hassle, with more vocals, fewer jazzy feelings, and more nocturnal elements figuring into the mix this time. It's that last bit that will set a veteran trip-hop fan in motion, as well it should, with key tracks like "What If" (sexy, lazy, rainy day music with vocalist Sarah Carlier buttering it all with soul) and "Stuttgart" (sounds like the Orb mixing Primal Scream with vocalist Lucas Santtana bringing some Tropicália flair to the session) providing perfect soundtracks for any loft littered with broken dreams and designer labels. Reverb and the spirit of Serge Gainsbourg drip out of the speakers as Roland Neuwirth strolls the back allies from Paris to Kingston on "Cavallo," and with "Bonjour" closing the set, you've got the proper amount of humor (the title) and simplicity (the track is comprised of strings, a harp, and a heartbeat) to make the album identifiable as Tosca. Atmospherics and meticulous recording are as important as ever, and while you can take a copy to the stereo shop to make sure that amp sounds rich and warm enough, the album is slightly more song-based than previous efforts, so finicky fans might gripe when the lyrics go quite Depeche Mode or James Blake. It's only a slight caution, and with everything else sounding like new dreams recorded on a familiar sound stage, Tosca regulars will find Odeon a demure return to form.
© David Jeffries /TiVo