Neotropic : La Prochaine Fois

Laid-back folky electronics

Concept albums generally set off ‘painful self-indulgence’ warning sirens. Concept albums tweely inspired by [I]childhood[/I] even more so – although that topic did fuel Dusted’s brilliant ‘When We Were Young’ last year.

Anyway, youthful recollections are the deal with the latest album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Riz Maslen, who’s worked as Neotropic since 1994 (previously collaborating with ’90s dance pioneers Future Sound Of London and The Beloved). Plus, in time-honoured Ninja Tune multimedia stylee, an additional CD-Rom includes Maslen’s moody film of the same title.

Neotropic’s great strength remains her wide-eyed fusion of sounds, flitting through lush strings to dub and warbling vocals, gleaning music from background noise. Rather than blatant club stylings, there’s a heavy folk tilt to her electronica here, with ex-Verve guitarist Nick McCabe adding melodies, and highlights including the sweetly whimsical ‘Closer To The Sun’ and excellent conclusion ‘Memories’, which works in a deliciously mellow rap from female Australian MC Shorty.

Admittedly, the concept is

not without stabs of pompousness; the cluttering ‘Money For Old Rope’ sounds

like just that. Like listening to someone else’s flashbacks, ‘La Prochaine Fois’ isn’t immediately punchy; you’ll need to persevere for its hazily sensual chill-out revelations.

Arwa Haider