Review: Muchuu – On Beyond

When we complied last year’s Best Electronic Albums of the year list we were delighted to be able to include Muchuu’s impressive debut among the lot. They were a breath of fresh air giving us something light, airy, innocent and highly original. It was a delight to sample what we came to think of as “what childhood would sound like if set to music.” A quickly released follow-up begs the question, is this something that can be sustained over the period of multiple albums or is it a case of “best in small doses”?

At its heart Muchuu is a band meant to err on the side of the twee. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, in a cynical, post-ironic world what was so refreshing about this band was it’s irony-free sense of pure whimsy. They were nice kids making really nice music. Nice was oozing out their pores. So it’s fascinating how a formula that seemed so utterly lovely a year already feels like too much one album on. On Beauty is very much Adventure We Go Part II. It may be too much to expect meaningful growth in just a year and change but it’s remarkable how the songs on this album and the antecedent are so completely interchangeable. And what worked when it was so original and fresh suddenly feels “done before” with diminishing results.

Now, that said, there are some really good songs on this album, but where they stand out are those rare occasions when they take a tentative, baby-bird-stepping-out-of-the-nest nudge into slightly new and varied territory. “Rivers Will Freeze” is a delightful piano ballad that is so clean it allows singer Milky’s beautiful, ice-melting voice to punch through impressively. “Beauty turns to shadow/should I be afraid?” she wonders alluding to a darkness that lurks outside the Muchuu compound but never quite breaking down the walls and gaining entry. When they cautiously embrace even a modicum of that darkness it makes for really nice stuff, building on their solid foundation something really compelling. Also impressive are the mid-tempo “Reflection Tells”, with some great multilayered synth tracks that tell their own narrative, the powerful wall of sound they create on “Pirate”, and the album-best “Opal” which shakes up their familiar melodic crutches and tries (and succeeds!) to achieve a more intense, deeper sound. Again, when they mix it up, it’s pretty cool stuff. When they play it safe, like on single “Dance the Day”, the album starts to feel boring and this band are better than that.

Musically they are years ahead of their calendar age and there is a lot of richness woven into these tracks. They’re smart in how they use synthesizers to create a sense of mood and even if that mood is almost never varied, it’s very effective.

There’s not a single “bad” song in this bunch but they set the bar high on their debut that even by almost/barely matching the bar, it feels slight. That may not be fair but we love this band and see so much potential in them that we know they’ve got great stuff in store, but the great stuff is yet to come thinks we. They’re ever-lovely, and Milky, in particular remains possibly the most delightful, charming person in the world of electronic music, but they need to discover their darker side, the cynicism that lives in everyone and sometimes brings real creative balance to art. Maintaining their abject purity while embracing the shadows could make for a compelling brew…

Watch: Dance the Day



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