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Album Review

The second full-length album (and first domestic U.S. release) by this talented Japanese ensemble, Speedomeer, continues an exploration and expansion of the limits of downtempo electronica that began with Or Not, the band's debut. The elements are still relatively familiar — funky but relaxed breakbeats, crunchy but undemanding textures, melodies that are hinted at more than explicitly stated, and all of it seasoned with the occasional pinch of sweetly layered female vocals or virtuosic turntablism. If the result isn't exactly groundbreaking, it does gently nudge the traditional downtempo envelope by combining elements of smooth jazz (as on "Walk"), and experimental electronica (as on "Wake Up Afternoon," with its Japanese talk-radio samples). "SKY" features lots of heavily treated guitar and a deeply uncomplicated beat, and goes on for maybe two minutes too long; "Check Off" is built on a simple beatbox rhythm that sounds charmingly like an old Casio machine, and doesn't flesh out the sound very much beyond that. Fans of Kruder & Dorfmeister and Zero 7 will feel at home with Private, as will anyone else with an ear for adventurous chill out music (if that isn't too much of a contradiction in terms).

Private, Speedometer
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