November 10, 2005

Her Space Holiday "The Past Presents the Future"

Marc Bianchi's made some sad music, some depressing music and, truth be said, some dull music. It's okay; when you're as prolific as Bianchi, not every record will be a home run. But over the past few years, with albums like Manic Expressive, Home is Where You Hang Yourself and, most recently, Young Machines, Bianchi's pop skills have steadily matured; he took a step in the right direction when he ditched the lo-fi aesthetic, and with The Past Presents The Future, he's also ditched a lot of the overwraught accompaniment, settling for a lighter sound.

Unlike previous records, where his songs would be depressing first-person rants, for The Past Presents the Future Bianchi has stepped out of his one-world view, opting to comment on the world at large. Seeing as he's mastered the more personal elements, hearing him make music that's a little less personal is a welcome relief--plus, playing the role of the pity-party boy over the course of a career doth not interesting music make, especially when you know that the artist in question is capable of so much more than that. He's also not trying to be overly showy with his musicianship, either; IDM can be terribly off-putting for those who don't appreciate it, and thankfully, he's also ditched that style.

The result? Simple, enjoyable pop songs. "One, two three, let's all exploit our misery" he sings in the utterly catchy "Missed Medicine," and that's pretty much the mood of The Past Presents The Future. At times, he dives into more serious, somber moments, but those are few and far between, and even when he's being serious, his cleverness makes it hard to take him seriously. Bianchi's still miserable, but he's tempered his music with a great deal of wit. Heck, the album starts on a clever note; in "Forever and a Day," the song starts with a rather bittersweet answering machine message, followed by the line, "Misery loves company when company won't call," he sings in a serious voice, backed by a gorgeous string arrangement. It's sad...but it's also funny. Whether it's "The Weight of the World's" sardonic words or his peppy, upbeat dance-pop of "A Match Made in Texas," there's plenty of melancholy and depression and cynicism to be found. His newfound pop sensibility adds a nice dimension to his dour songwriting, and if at times you're reminded of Eels, you're not alone. Bianchi isn't E...yet.

The Past Presents the Future is Bianchi's first big step towards something greater than the bedroom. Sure, his other records were great, but this album is the first time Bianchi seems to recognize the power of his own abilities. It's a clever, smart record made for cynical love-lorn listeners.

--Joseph Kyle

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