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Eclectic Pop: Fragile Dragon, Tearwave

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FRAGILE DRAGON: Light Bend and Rhythm (CD on Atmospherex)

This release from 2007 offers 43 minutes of swaying pop music.

Fragile Dragon is Philip Alden Benn.

Dreamy electronics combine with slippery guitars and sinuous e-perc to produce music that can only be called subdued electro-pop. Too energetic to be classed as EM, too cerebral to be considered pop music, this tuneage exhibits an exciting difference that is its strongest glamour. Eccentric but wholly accessible, this music delivers on several levels, appealing to fans of strangeness and satisfying those searching for undiscovered realms of electrified funk.

Keyboards generate peppy sweeps, while synthesizers provide a lusty dose of quirky electronics. Clouds of tonal textures are prone to rip from the sky and descend as stinging pellets of rain, drenching the listener with a refreshing sparkle. Frequent tastes of ilbience and subliminal breakbeats spread the songs' appeal even farther.

The percussion is artificial, but far from static or sterile. Synthetic bongos lend a lively bounce to the chugging tuneage.

Guitars contribute a grounding element here, at least they would if the riffs weren't subjected to such engaging treatments. (Okay, there are instances of conventional guitar, but they are almost buried by the overt weirdness of swarming electronics.) As it is, the guitars merely augment the whimsical disposition of the music.

Treated vocals are found in some tracks, attributing specific sentiments to these songs: escape, longing, achievement.

As one might expect, the pieces are compositional hybrids, grafting together aspects from several genres to produce dreamy tuneage that hops and sways. One interesting track reveals a wholly electrified take on the Grateful Dead song "Fire on the Mountain," with austere e-perc and haunting atmospherics dueling with distorted guitars.

A satisfying excursion into exotic territory.

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TEARWAVE: Tearwave (CD on Projekt)

This release from 2007 offers 45 minutes of dreamy pop songs.

Tearwave is: Jennifer Manganiello on vocals, Doug White on guitar and keyboards, Joe Villella on bass, and John Stephanski on drums and percussion.

It's called "shoegaze" music because the performers stand still on-stage and watch what they're doing to their instruments instead of gallivanting around the stage. But that doesn't describe the sound--and (oddly) there's a distinct sound to so-called shoegaze music. It's dreamy, heavily hypnotic, yet steeped in barely restrained intensity. It's more goth than pop, more pop than rock, more addictive than most street drugs.

The guitars blaze in shimmering sheets of fire that hang glistening in the air, neither advancing nor receding. The notes slide together in a liquid fashion. Some riffs shine like day-stars about to go nova.

The keyboards (and electronics) generate an eerie drone that sways with an infectious tremble.

The basslines possess a molten quality, again pursuing a fluid delivery rather than establishing any rhythmic pulsation.

The drums are often understated. Well defined and compelling, but submerged in the music's overall ethereal mien.

The vocals are especially angelic. Sweet and engaging, but expansive in a manner that makes them elusive and mysterious. Sultry syllables swim with dazed emphasis. Many of the lyrics articulate alienation, from love, from humanity, from society, from suffering. The quest for fulfillment comes full circle, unearthing the goal in the only place it can flourish: in the confident self.

The compositions are solid and bewitching. Decelerating aspects of hard rock and fusing that vitality with a ghostly demeanor produces tuneage of a highly attractive nature.

Long after the sad departure of bands like Lush and Ride, Tearwave arrives to relight the torch and continue the legacy that is shoegaze.

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