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White Magic

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Album Review

ceo is Eric Berglund, one half of the Tough Alliance and co-CEO of Gothenburg's Sincerely Yours label; his first solo venture is another clear winner from that inscrutable but highly dependable camp. While its brightly colorful melting pot of indie pop, ersatz tropicalia, chintzy new age, and electronic dance-pop doesn't stray far from the distinctive, neon-hued sound of TTA, White Magic feels tighter, lusher, and more polished (especially vocally) than most of the duo's output, with an earnest, romantic emotional outlook far from TTA's typically enigmatic, performative sneering. Berglund wastes no time announcing his ambitions here, starting with the swaying orchestral expanse of "All Around," over which he declares: "I'm coming home to face the demons on my own." It's a grand opening statement, but it's only one part of the ceo equation: alongside weightier material like the ruminative "Oh God Oh Dear" and a solemn, churchy rendition of "Den Blomstertid Nu Kommer" (a hymnlike ode to summertime that's traditionally sung at the close of the Swedish school year) that ends the album with the same string figures that opened it, the balance of White Magic's eight tracks consists of cheerfully melodic dance-pop. "Illuminata" and "Love and Do What You Will," in particular, are about as buoyant as they come, and "Come with Me" is widescreen Balearic pop at its glistening, tuneful best. The title track shades slightly darker, with its vaguely sinister, pulsing tribal techno punctuated by jungle noises, steely guitar flourishes, and percolating pan flutes, while TTA's recurrent hip-hop-inflected fascination with violence rears its head on the otherwise blithe-sounding "No Mercy" with an excellently deployed knife-sharpening sample (the song also features offhand lyrical references to bondage, incarceration, and smoking crack). Without shortchanging Berglund's melodic abilities and his knack for sharp, effective mood juxtapositions, ceo's greatest attribute is his fearlessly inventive, highly detailed approach to arrangement, bringing together an unpredictable assortment of sounds on nearly every track, and somehow making these largely synthetic productions feel dynamic and vibrantly alive. Phil Spector and Brian Wilson come to mind — the baroque strings and clip-clop percussion of "Oh God Oh Dear," specifically, suggest discreet nods to each — and, indeed, pace Wilson, the whole affair might be aptly summed up as a "quarter-life symphony to God." At under 30 minutes, White Magic could feel painfully brief, but it's so dense with creativity, melody, and life that it seems churlish to want more. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi


Born: Gothenburg, Sweden

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Initially known as a cryptic, small-caps-only electro-pop project, ceo was revealed to be Eric Berglund, one half of Sweden's the Tough Alliance and co-owner of the label Sincerely Yours, which included Memory Tapes, jj, Air France, and the Honeydrips among its roster. Berglund decided to work on a mostly solo project (with some help from producer and labelmate Kendal Johansson) after the release of the Tough Alliance's third album, New Chance. The single "Come with Me" preceded White Magic,...
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