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Album Review

New wave is as much a "present" music as anything else in an era of eternal scenes and variations upon them, so on the one hand Cafeneon are one of a number of bands finding something enjoyable in the herky-jerk hiccup rhythms of late-'70s and early-'80s acts and seeing what can be done with them in the 21st century. But on the other, the Belgian quartet do something a little bit more — and part of that might be ascribable to their background. If the combinations of shoegaze glint-and-glaze and half-spoken-word lyrics spike up the opening chug of "Patine" more than most bands of their inclination, the overlay as a whole calls to mind Crepuscule more than Factory, say. While it would be simplistic to reduce Cafeneon's sound and style to that, there's an attractively self-conscious artiness in the group's feeling and delivery — a studied casualness especially evident in the easygoing-then-nervous vocals of Rodolphe Coster, though Catherine Brevers' own more straightforward approach is no less enjoyable — which steers clear of the overtly commercial even when hooks abound. The end result is a splintered identity that which might actually help cement the group's core sound all that much more fully, nervous dance, suave stroll, jangle pop, and hyped-up beats all recombining in slightly different ways each time. They're not fully settled in their own sound yet — a song like "L'Instant" can remind one of Antena, another like "Snoopy" calls to mind early New Order and the Cure at their most rushed and bass-led, and so forth — but they've got a lot going on and can likely do a lot more with it in the future.

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