Sweet Trip

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Halica (1998), 7/10
Velocity Design Comfort (2003), 7/10
You Will Never Know Why (2009), 4.5/10

Sweet Trip, the project of San Francisco's producer Roberto Burgos, debuted with the lengthy hypnotic pieces of Halica (1998). Fish (11:15) transitions from a folk chant embedded to an intricate beat under fire from layers of distortion. The twitching pulse of Pulse (10:05) is wed to oceanic waves and reverbed yearnings; and at the end it morphs into a frenzied chirping pattern. The album takes detours into cubistic rhythmic fantasies Follow Me and the magical tribal trance of Traces (7:35). The ghostly lullaby, the bubbling synth and the steady machine beat of Jelly Charm (8:34) constitute the most straightforward song of the album.

The sprawling (74-minute) Velocity Design Comfort (2003) is ambitious in multiple directions. Firstly, Sweet Trip display a creative approach to rhythm, inventing their own version of drum'n'bass in the splintered Tekka and predating dubstep in Design 1. Secondly, the creative rhythms are often coupled with the simplest melodies. Pro Lov Ad overlays atmospheric electronica and rapid-fire beats to accompany a smooth lament reminiscent of Sade's Smooth Operator. The pulverizing evil-android polyrhythms of Dedicated crucify a suave chant that could be from a film soundtrack of the Sixties. The eight-minute Velocity is two songs in one: a four-minute sonata of instrumental madness and then a bossanova litany. A soothing, sensual chant emerges occasionally from the mix of a carillon-like piano, a clock-like rhythm and bubbling electronica in the eight-minute Fruitcake and Cookies. They deconstruct the sleepy lullabye To All the Dancers of the World by coupling it with incoherent rhythms and sounds and then bury it under a shroud of distortions. At times the melody moves to the center, but the range of their pop styles is broad, from the bubblegum-pop ditty Dsco to the eight-minute sensual pop-soul ballad Sept (another Sade imitation). The ten-minute International is a confused fantasia that begins with dirty wavering drones, then proceeds to a combination of carillon singalong and interstellar noises, and finally dies out in languid guitar strumming. The album criss-crosses a vast repertory of genres. The mood, instead, remains constant: a transcendent sense of loneliness and helplessness.

You Will Never Know Why (2009) has none of the magic of the first album and none of the cerebral imagination of the second. It meanders between dance-pop (Conservation of Two), synth-pop (Misfortunes Are Cruel), Sixties pop (Pretending), Santana-esque shuffles (No Words to Be Found), prog-rock (Acting) and atmospheric folk-rock (To the Moon); but the result is mostly tedious and derivative. The one decent moment is hidden towards the end, Your World Is Eternally Complete, a pounding and soaring tune. The electronic ballet Female Lover belongs to another album and to another band, perhaps the future of Sweet Trip.

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