Park Avenue Music 

To Take With You

These days the whole girl singing/guy knob-twiddling thing seems over. With downtempo mixed-gender duos seeming as relevant today as a large hip-hop posse, it's been difficult finding anything new in that format in the post-trip-hop era. Back in the early '90s, both Portishead and Maxinquaye-era Tricky provided groundbreaking examples and, unfortunately, loads of shoe-gazing imitators.

But Jeanette Faith and Wes Steed, who do business as Park Avenue Music, are bringing something different to the game with their debut, To Take With You -- namely, some decent composition and some good ol'-fashioned noise. The album's ten songs find Faith -- a recovering concert piano trainee -- counterpointing both her melodic keyboard arrangements and delicate, lyric-obscuring vocals against Steed's buzzed-out electronic soundscapes with a lucid, ambient affect. PAM brings a chill mood without losing that vague "organic feeling" to which far too many electronic musicians give lip service. Eventually, Faith's dreamtime vocals take a backseat on Take, which is fine: We've got enough precious singer-songwriters to deal with, and her upper register lands like fine frost onto Steed's sheets of distortion and stretched-out beats. Of course, an album of quality existential make-out music will inevitably sag a bit, and at this one's midpoint, "Trouble! Sleeping," tends to undermine its own title. Overall though, PAM's Cocteau Twins-vs.-Autechre approach offers hope for your friendly-neighborhood-gauzy-minded-bedroom-boffins; hope that their efforts may not be in vain.

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