"We Have Sound"

StarTime International


"The Loving Sounds of Static"

Ghostly International

The world's dance clubs still pulse with faceless beats, but a lot of today's electronica features actual singers and full-blown songs. Such music uses samples and electrobeats primarily as a means to an end yet shares hardcore techno's fascination with synthetic timbres. That affinity is proclaimed by the titles of debut longplayers by London's Tom Vek and New York's Mobius Band, both of which stress their sonic character: Vek calls his "We Have Sound," while Mobius Band chose "The Loving Sounds of Static."

Vek is another young devotee of vintage post-punk-funk, as becomes too obvious on such songs as "Nothing But Green Lights" and "If I Had Changed My Mind" -- valentines to, respectively, Talking Heads and the Fall. Yet he often transcends his influences, inventively combining electronic timbres, prominent dub-style bass and melodic hooks to propel such insistent and irresistible tracks as "I Ain't Saying My Goodbyes" and "C-C (You Set the Fire in Me)." The album trails off after its first three numbers, but those are enough to prove that Vek doesn't just have sound. He has songs, too.

Although Vek wouldn't lose much if he traded his backing tracks for live musicians, Mobius Band relies on electronic chiming and clanking to fortify its sometimes monotonous material. Singer Ben Sterling's delivery tends to be flat, and such tracks as "Taxicab" pursue midtempo grooves fruitlessly.

Yet the trio's more engaging tunes, notably "Radio Coup" and "You're Wrong," are sparked by livelier rhythms, melodic hooks or just some nifty noise. Mobius Band would benefit from more consistent songwriting, but the fat thumps that so effectively introduce "Philadelphia" suggest that the group should never underestimate the importance of static.

-- Mark Jenkins

Appearing Sunday at the Black Cat.

Tom Vek often transcends vintage post-punk-funk.