New (-ish) Music: Studio – Yearbook 1

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mojo-photo-studioyearbook.jpgA lot of music requires the listener to be patient, give it time, let it sink in, listen to the whole album beginning to end before judging. On Swedish duo Studio’s Yearbook 1, it’s possible to pinpoint the actual moment you have to wait for: exactly 1 minute and 39 seconds into track 1, “No Comply,” the awkward piano chords and strained vocals give way to a chiming guitar arpeggio, and the effect is like rounding a bend to see a vertigo-inducing vista. That sense of unexpected majesty never goes away on this collection of the band’s vinyl releases.

What sort of music is this? Well, it’s kind of like Cut Copy, as in “pretty damn ’80s.” But Studio sound like their only exposure to New Order was “Turn the Heater On,” the spacey reggae cover from the 1986 Peel Sessions release, and their influences are so scattered it’s hard to pin down exactly what’s going on. Dub, Afro-pop and the rolling rhythms of Krautrock all seem to make appearances, and with the eight tracks averaging 8 minutes and 49 seconds long (that 15-minute track helps), this is no pop album. “Life’s a Beach” starts off as a double-time synth number, somewhere on the dark side of A-ha, but turns stormy when the guitar kicks in, only to mellow out around the 11-minute mark. While the perhaps-ironically-named “Radio Edit” (it’s 9:52!) is mostly just an instrumental extension of “No Comply’s” chords, it never wears thin, instead achieving a kind of Brian Eno-like equilibrium.

It sure seems like this mish-mash of styles and extended song structures shouldn’t be so easy to enjoy, but it really is; there’s a kind of nostalgic wistfulness at work here, as if the band is resurrecting long-abandoned musical agendas that, as they spring back into life, make you wonder why we ever forgot about them. Like paging through your old high-school yearbook, this album is both melancholy and inspiring, a reminder of paths not taken, doors that you might yet open.

Studio’s Yearbook 1 is out now on Information.
Links: MySpace, website, mp3 of “West Side” via Flux-Rad.

Promotional video for an earlier vinyl release, “West Coast,” featuring a couple songs:

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