Ear Pwr - Ear Pwr (Carpark)

All the ingredients are there for a great dance record.

Released May 23rd, 2011 via Carpark / By Mark Beckett
Ear Pwr - Ear Pwr (Carpark) Following the perplexing and eclectic themes of Ear Pwr's debut album Super Animal Brothers III, the duo have returned with a more concise focus, yet they have failed to escape the electronic indulgences of their first effort. But for every idiosyncratic spewing of synth or heightened percussion, lying underneath is a homeliness and sincerity that eludes all of their previous work and rescues what could have been a unforgivable listen.

It's an album that grows in perspective. It begins as a dance album but you start to muse over how you would dance to such irregular rhythms. Eventually its nostalgic demeanor creeps up on you and fills you with elated pride in existence and all things bright and beautiful, whilst dancing rather awkwardly. This ecstasy culminates in album closer 'Your Life Is Important' with vocalist Sarah Reynolds proclaiming "no matter what they think, they can't take this away, your life is important", one of the albums last and most defining lyrics, in an otherwise indifferent display of varying lyrical and vocal depth.

The synth and electronics on the other hand, provided by Devin Booze - who learnt his craft under the UNCA music-tech program founded by Bob Moog - displays all the over-excited vigor of a man fresh from a well-regarded scholarship and itching to show off what he can do, the result of which can often be uncomfortably over powering. All the right sounds are there, its textures ape the theme of the album quite poignantly and its synth aficionado's requisite nod to Krautrock is present, but it's either lacking in melody or the melody is crowded out by excessive rendering and additional sound effects. It harks visions of Kraftwerk if they were to slip out of their immaculately pressed matching suits, forget their visions of a robotically dominated future and focus solely on learning the entire functionality of the equipment staring back at them.

It's a shame because when the arrangements are more favourable to the melody, they produce dance tunes that you can actually dance to, and good ones at that. 'Melt' For example, with its carnival flavour and infectious hook, fluctuates, teases and satisfies in the way a good dance song should. Perhaps half of the disappointment comes from 'Mountain Home' - the best example of Ear Pwr 'getting it right' - being the opening track, thus creating an early peak. It perfectly kicks off their ode to their native North Carolina, containing a cheeky melody, a huge chorus, no clutter and it doesn't lose their blend of carnival percussion and otherworldly electronica.

The Euphoric 'National Parks' caps off a prevalent first half of the album before it descends into something largely uninspiring. It's not until the explosive 'Geodes' that it starts to pick up again, an instrumental loaded with sirens, pounding drums and radiant synths that build into an exhilarating climax. It's a moment where you feel the once prodigal synth textures are now entirely necessary.

Ear Pwr seem adept at capturing the spirit of the places they know best, the mountain ranges, national parks and the general aura of North Carolina, something that has brought their music up a level. They have looked closer to home for inspiration instead of reaching out blindly for anything they could get their hands on, a tendency which plagued their previous album. Despite impulses to drown out key parts of their music with excessive keyboard tracks, you can't help but feel they could make a really great record, they just need to remember; hook, verse, chorus, bongos, tie Booze's hands together.