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Experiments In Ambient Soul

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Album Review

The title of this album is wrong in two out of three ways. First of all, there's nothing especially experimental about the Dining Rooms' approach here: the record-buying public has long ago expressed its support for polite funky grooves with hints of jazz (double bass, Fender Rhodes, etc.) thrown in and breakbeats percolating around down below. Nor is there anything particularly ambient about their sound — some of these tracks are relatively quiet, sure, but most of them assert themselves quite effectively. That leaves the "soul" question, and here they make a stronger case. Stefano Ghittoni and Cesare Malfatti know how to build a hot, funky groove without overloading the mix or pounding you over the head, and they do so particularly well on tracks like "No Problem" and the sultry "Forever's Not." The album's only real problems lie with the many collaborators who Ghittoni and Malfatti enlisted to give their fourth disc a more immediate, organic flavor. Marta Collica is a fine singer, and her vocal contributions on "Forever's Not" and "Thin Ice" are album highlights. Sean Martin, on the other hand, is a derivative singer and a pedestrian lyricist at best (sample couplet: "I don't know what's wrong with me/All I know is that I need someone to set me free"), and Don Freeman's winning falsetto croon isn't enough to redeem the lyrically vapid and melodically barren "Destination Moon." Most of the tracks that feature collaborators would have actually worked much better as soulful (even ambient) instrumentals. So maybe what they meant by "ambient" was "don't listen too closely." If so, follow their advice and you'll find the album perfectly enjoyable.

Biography

Formed: Milan, Italy

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

Stefano Ghittoni and Cesare Malfatti form the Milan-based downbeat group the Dining Rooms. Both came of age playing for numerous bands in the city's alternative/punk scene before switching over to producer-based trip-hop and the breezy updated lounge of the Dining Rooms. The duo's first full-length, Subterranean Modern, appeared in 1999 on Milano 2000. Numero Deux earned American distribution through Guidance upon its release in 2001,...
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Experiments In Ambient Soul, The Dining Rooms
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