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Adem - Love and Other Planets

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Artist: Adem

Album: Love and Other Planets

Label: Domino

Review date: Sep. 10, 2006

On his second solo album, Love and Other Planets, Fridge bassist Adem Ilhan turns his gaze towards the stratosphere, looking for messages from another world, seeking sense in celestial motion, and pondering the vastness of the galaxy. While free of any narrative thread or logical progression, Love is at least in some sense a concept album, considering the same themes and evoking the same motifs throughout. Musically, however, it’s considerably less focused: while Adem retains much of the acoustic instrumentation (not to mention a marked fondness for chimes and glockenspiel) of his debut, Homesongs, he seeks to take it in multiple different directions, experimenting with more beat-driven song forms and electronic textures.

Unfortunately, Adem’s efforts to take his music to new places result in the abandonment of much of what made Homesongs so appealing. Love and Other Planets draws far less on English folk music than its predecessor and fails to put Adem’s talents for crafting effortless, timeless melodies to use. Only hints of the bittersweet melodicism of Homesongs emerge here, most notably in title track, built around a single harmonium track and an aching and plaintive vocal. Some of the ventures into new stylistic territory are successful enough, particularly the propulsive kalimba-driven “You and Moon,” but more often they fall flat, lacking the warmth of Adem’s more straightforward and classical folk songs.

The album suffers further from an uninspired use of its interplanetary themes: in many cases, the overarching “concept” seems to be more of a songwriting crutch than anything else, resulting in tepid metaphors about launching oneself into space and the difficult “crash landings” of life. Even worse is the Planet of the Apes-inspired opening track, “Warning Call,” which wonders if an ailing planet could save itself if it received a message from beyond the stars; the hard-to-swallow surprise ending reveals that the planet in question is not in fact Earth, which has already been destroyed. Adem delivers his message (which also reemerges on a later track about intergalactic warnings, “These Lights are Meaningful”) with a straight-faced bluntness that feels more preachy than poetic.

Love and Other Planets is clearly intended as a move away from Adem’s earlier work, seeking to engage with serious subject matter while moving away from a strictly folk-based musical paradigm. It falls flat in its lyrical ambitions, far too self-conscious, rote and direct to evoke the desired pathos. Musically, the album rests on shaky ground, intent on creative progression but playing against Adem’s own previously demonstrated strengths.

By Michael Cramer

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