Belgians have a knack for making waffles, but the musical recipe for Belgian band Hooverphonic’s latest release lacks flavor and leaves a bad taste in the listener’s mouth.
Hooverphonic is one of many electronica artists to creep into the mainstream music world in the past few years. Unfortunately, Blue Wonder Power Milk(Epic) – the electronica rock foursome’s latest contribution to the ambient, trip-hop arm of this techno invasion – is unimaginative, staid and tedious.
Although its name implies the emulation of a hi-fi vacuum cleaner, Hooverphonic’s sound actually lies somewhere between ambient and pop music. Its music closely resembles Portishead, with haunting vocals over gloomy computer-generated beats and eerie acoustic melodies.
Hooverphonic is not new to the music scene. Its 1997 release, A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular, is touted by most fans as the band’s best work. Additionally, its music appeared on the motion picture soundtrack of I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Blue Wonder Power Milk is one of many recent electronica releases on major record labels. These bands try to create the ethereal sound that is rampantly being churned out on the music scene. Artists like The Orb, Morcheeba and Tricky are at the fore of the trend.
At this point, the production of this type of music is almost formulaic – weaving evocative vocals through mellow beats and layered grooves to create a dreamy atmosphere for the listener. On its latest release, Hooverphonic miscalculated.
Blue Wonder Power Milk starts out with the intention to take the listener on a groovy flight of fancy but falls short. On the first track, “Battersea,” mysterious violins introduce a fast-tempo beat, minus a bass. As the song flows into the next, the music sounds like an electronic symphony of sour violins, whining horns and video game sound effects. An eerie female voice that whispers nonsensical words spottingly accompanies the music.
Blue Wonder Power Milk fails to capture the listener’s fascination with any solid beats worthy of nodding along. Hooverphonic ultimately destroys the few songs on the CD with any shred of musical merit by adding poorly-sung, want-to-be-profound lyrics.
Female singer Geike Arnaert whispers her vaporous, overly breathy vocals in an attempt to deliver lyrics in the emotional, light style of Tori Amos and Bjork. She ends up sounding like an off-key version of Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries.
The lyrics are awkward and distract the listener from the instrumental riffs and drum beats. Most songs talk about funky articles of clothing and a variety of strange feelings. On the track “Dictionary,” vocalist Alex Callier sings, “Won’t you be my dictionary/Can’t I be very necessary/Inter uni fun comes back/Satellites they mix you up.” The only thing left to say after the track is simply “what?”
Do not try to make sense of the album’s title, Blue Wonder Power Milk. The title song hidden at the end of track 12 offers little insight, besides that it is “something you feel inside.”
After a tiresome wait through 13 dreary songs, Hooverphonic never lets a powerful bass line kick in. It also never allows any of the acid grooves in the music to flow without bad vocals interfering.
What Hooverphonic has done, however, is inspire the listener to skip ahead to the next track and the next and so on. In the end, the listener only discovers the whole CD sounds exactly the same – to which none of it is worth listening. The release makes one wonder if the creative possibilities for ambient, trip-hop music have been exhausted.