Lali Puna's previous album, Faking the Books, was a drastic change for a previously subdued group. Most of its songs featured electric guitars in a prominent role. Some of them, at various points, were loud. On Our Inventions, following a break of six years, guitars go back to supplying texture, while programmed rhythms and synthesizers, with delicately struck vibraphones, rule the album’s makeup.
Over half a decade has lapsed since Lali Puna graced us with their last releases, including 2004's breakthrough LPFaking the Books and the 2005 rarities collection I Thought I Was Over That, and laptop pop hasn't been the same. The long-awaited full-length Our Inventions doesn't display a drastic alteration of the band's sound so much as remind listeners that a clever and vital piece of the musical landscape has been missing. .
Morr Music didn't invent indie-infused electro-pop, but the German label put an indelible stamp on it over the last decade. Three of its definitive bands-- the Notwist, Tied & Tickled Trio, and Lali Puna-- share members, not to mention a knack for emotive electro-acoustic melodies. But each band has its own angle. The Notwist go for the broadest appeal, and tend to hit big or mildly miss.
I'm not sure if it's fair to call Lali Puna a side project. Sure, they share Markus Acher from the Notwist, but they've long since established themselves as an independent act in their own right. I can't help but feeling, however, that the two bands share more in common than just Acher, and sometimes the commonalities stick more than the differences, as is the case here.
If you’re to believe the press on the Morr Records website, Our Inventions—Lali Puna’s first album in six years—“finds [the group] continuing to push the frontiers of their medium”. Furthermore, Morr hyperbolically declares that “perhaps never before have such jubilant pop hooks been so meticulously and fastidiously crafted”. Now, I’m about the last person to take more than a glancing interest in promotional hype (in my days as a college radio music director, I often chucked one-sheet mail inserts into the recycle bin without reading them).
We’re past making excuses for electronica now, right? The novelty of creating music without traditional instruments has worn off, so we demand sonic invention, excellent writing or emotional punch from musicians choosing laptops over guitars. On this basis: Epic fail, Lali Puna. Six years ago the Weilheim group with incestuous links to The Notwist and Tied & Tickled Trio released the surprisingly guitar-driven Faking The Books.
It’s been six years since Lali Puna’s last release, 2004’s Faking The Books, but these Weilheim, Germany experimental electronic artists have been dabbling in a surrealistic blend of electronica, indie and pop since their 1999 debut Tridecoder. Steering away from the more guitar-driven Faking The Books and turning more towards the bubbly electro-pop of The Postal Service and the crisp, playful electro of Computer World-era Kraftwerk, Lali Puna’s Our Inventions mesmerizes with wonderfully layered and intricately constructed electronic sound manipulations that are tastefully crafted into experimental pop songs. With warm synth tones, squelchy sonic textures and reserved, synth-pop rhythms, the songs are both soothing and atmospheric while being playful and entertaining.