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Album Review

Most new-century boy-girl duos seem intent on making as loud a racket as possible, if the White Stripes, Quasi, or Viva Voce are any yardstick. Not so North Carolina husband-and-wife team Joe and April Diaco, who lull listeners into a state of ecstatic bliss via their debut's lush, stately paced dream pop. Evoking the sensuous sounds and introspective lyrics of 4AD or Projekt forebears like Mazzy Star and Love Spirals Downward, the Diacos' Myspace demos were also unique enough to attract the interest of dream pop guru Mark Kramer (Shimmy Disc), who publicly raved about Alt-Ctrl-Sleep and offered to produce the band's debut. Logistics kept that from happening and the band produced it themselves, though the internet demos resulted in their signing to Lakeshore Records. It's easy to hear what attracted Kramer and Lakeshore — gently undulating melodies cocooned in layers of reverbed guitar, keys, and Joe's pleasantly processed vocals, augmented at seemingly all the right moments by organic instrumentation (particularly glockenspiel) or various synth layers, and pushed along by April's subtle brush strokes and cymbal crashes. The melodies tend to enter and slowly add volume and texture, patiently building to a crescendo before unwinding one layer at a time into swirls of synth buzz, simple narratives of love and longing slipping past like half-remembered dreams. Despite the record's holistic feel, there are variations enough to keep the songs sounding fresh throughout: the spacy "You Alone" or "Satellites (Venus to Mars)" could have come across the pond with Spiritualized; "Kandy" has the spot-on accoutrements typically associated with the studio tinkering of Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous, and when the duo synch their voices together on "Nothing" it suggests Summer Sun Yo La Tengo. One or two tracks could have been lopped off without much anguish, but the Diacos' create such a blissed-out vibe you're far more likely to just get lost in it than worry about the running time.

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