London WC2 Astoria

Before there was Trip-Hop, there was Hugo Largo....

BEFORE THERE WAS TRIP-HOP, there was Hugo Largo. Way back in 1987, this NYC quartet were drifting away from the dreariness of left-field rock and creating their own shapes in the air, melding guitars, bass, violins and the voice of Mimi Goese, whose vocals could drop from blissful warm to ice cold in the same, sweeping vowel.

Twelve years on, with the musical world having caught Hugo Largo's drift, Mimi returns with her debut solo album. Its slide guitars, twinkling sequencer backdrops and violins mingle to bring to musical life the cover image of a luminous jellyfish; but this is more than just a pleasant exercise in light sculpture or restful sounds of the ether.

The liquid variegation of 'Soak' enables Mimi to exercise her profoundly restless sense of ambiguity, unpredictability and slippery, multiple moods. Stand-out tracks? Try 'Piece Of Cake', which is about struggling to maintain composure in the face of a break-up, and 'Love Is An Island' in which former Hugo Largo sideman Hahn Rowe tows the album home with an achingly sweet violin solo. Unless you're still hung up on hackneyed ideas about 'hard' and 'soft' music, you'll find 'Soak' an unnervingly gorgeous experience.

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