"The Whispering Wall"
"Soft Toy," which opens the gazillionth album by the Legendary Pink Dots, never quite turns into a frisky synth-pop song, but it comes close, and that's no small thing. The Dots, who began in Britain but have long been based in Holland, are quite capable of wandering through space-jazz-rock thickets for an entire album or more. "The Whispering Wall" is not without such perambulations -- three of the 11 tracks run longer than eight minutes -- but overall the disc finds founders Edward Ka-Spel and the Silverman and their current collaborators in an accessible frame of mind.
While Ka-Spel and the Silverman's electronic keyboards and Niels Van Hoornblower's clarinet and saxophone provide the group's signature timbres, "Soft Toy" is propelled by churning electric guitar and the torchy "King of a Small World" by strolling acoustic bass. Most unexpected is "Peek-A-Boo," which splits the difference between roots reggae and polka.
If "The Whispering Wall" has a characteristic sound, it's the brooding yet almost bouncy style of "Soft Toy" and "For Sale," but the album offers numerous other alternatives. "Let's make an omelet out of egghead," suggests Ka-Spel, and the result is an agreeable scramble.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Thursday at the Velvet Lounge. * To hear a free Sound Bite from the Legendary Pink Dots, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8107. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)