Imitation Electric Piano is the brainchild of Simon Johns, who also serves in Stereolab. Gee, not that you would ever know that by listening to Trinity Neon. Okay, I'm being sarcastic, but I'm also being truthful. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, but is that really something worthy of complaint? Is it right to be critical of a band who makes music that sounds like his main gig, especially when his day-job is one that's terribly rewarding?
I certainly can't complain.
Of course, you really couldn't listen to Imitation Electric Piano without thinking about Stereolab. The expectations that come along with side projects must be annoying for musicians, especially when their main project is much-loved. Artists can't expect their audience to forgo such feelings; it's a part of the game, and a part of the nature of being a fan. There's plenty of Stereolabness to be found here--it hits you square in the face from the opening "Gin Lane," and sure, "An Hour Is Sixty Minutes Too Long" might sound familar, but that's okay. If you wanted to be snarky about it, you could say that Imitation Electric Piano is what Stereolab would sound like if Simon ran the show. Though that might seem a tad unfair, it rings true with every listen.
But does it really matter??
No, not really.
Considering Johns' musical background, I really like the fact that Imitation Electric Piano doesn't come off as terribly self-indulgent and that Trinity Neon never sounds forced. Instead of falling into the "this is our side project, let's go crazy" trap, the music Johns makes sounds right. Imitation Electric Piano are true to themselves, from the mellow "Chronicle of a Split Fortold" or the relaxing "Emphatic Yet Melodic" to the funky, silly "Theme for an Electronic Piano." None of that sickly side-project crap-trap here!
I'd rather live in a world where there was an Imitation Stereolab than to live with no Stereolab at all. Trinity Neon is an album of one sonic treasure after another, and just when you think that they can't get any mellower, somehow they find a way to lower your blood pressure even further. How mellow is it? It's so mellow that when Johns sings, you don't really notice, because the music behind him is taking you to a new level of coolness. And any band, regardless of the origins of their originality, wins MAJOR points in my book for using a Hammered Dulcimer ("King's Evil").
The world needs a relaxing balm for tense times, and Imitation Electric Piano have graciously stepped up to the plate. Trinity Neon is a great record; it's complex music made quite simple, and it's the perfect soundtrack music for the upcoming summer. A more pleasant record I have yet to hear this year.