Young urban hipsters who can’t wait for the next Tortoise album, you’re in luck. The Aluminum Group’s “Pelo” features the lush production and silky arrangements one expects to find on a Tortoise record, plus a healthy dose of Stereolab-influenced vocal harmonies thrown in for good measure. The result is a warm batch of easy listening chamber pop that would make even Burt Bacharach envious.
Brothers Frank and John Navin lead a talented cast of Chicago’s finest that includes the Mekons’ Sally Timms, Tortoise-ites John Herndon, John McEntire, Doug McCombs, and Jeff Parker, and Rob Mazurek of the Chicago Underground Duo. But despite all the personalities involved, no one musician dominates. Parker’s somnolent guitar can be heard right alongside Herndon’s skittering drumbeats and Mazurek’s delicate cornet tones.
Though the easy listening of ’60s groups remains a primary influence, the Navins take great pains to keep their sound firmly modern. For this, the mixture of real and synthesized instruments becomes vital. The dynamic works well throughout “Pelo,” most notably on the poppy “Satellite” and the playful “Tom Of Finland.” The former radiates a warm tone thanks to Mazurek’s cornet, while the latter uses analog synth and heavy vocal processing to enliven the mix. Other standouts include the sexy, slinky “If You’ve Got a Lover, You’ve Got a Life” and “Cannot Make You Out.”
While the Chicago scene may seem a bit incestuous, “Pelo” proves there’s enough talent in the gene pool to keep producing interesting offspring, even if they do all have blonde hair and green eyes.