So many Portisehead comparisons are floating around on the net about this record that those chagrining the reference might unfortunately overlook it. The instrumentals (crackling vinyl, mellotron, reverse flute) are very familiar, though admittedly much less dense and palpable than any found on a Portisehead recording; in this respect, AK-Momo are sort of a Portisehead Jr. However, where the later band is associated with trip-hop, AK-Momo have nothing to do with the genre. The sounds on Return To N.Y. are much more reminiscent of Felt Mountain era Goldfrapp. As for the vocals, AK von Malmborg has an exquisite drawl that can be vulnerable and cute and at times deceiving and seductive. It really all depends on the songs, which shift moods throughout the record. Mattias Olsson, being the other half of AK-Momo, lays down the textured and often low key backdrops, helping to illuminate the beautiful vocals. There’s also that optigan, manipulated by Olsson to create a lot of these vintage sounds.
Return To N.Y. starts off with three of its strongest tracks. “Greasy Spoon” opens the record, a quiet ode to love begot in the little eateries accompanied by twilight mellotron and a string sample. This track in particular showcases the fragility of the vocals; they appear clean and sympathetic. “Greasy Spoon” is the most memorable song on the album and it is absolutely exquisite. Next comes the more upbeat “Return to N.Y.” With a distant tangoish beat playing, the song has you gently swaying your hips to the old radio-broadcast sound. “Women to Control” is a slow moving, not altogether serious lambaste of male dominancy. While accusing her male counterpart, von Malmborg’s voice remains soft and sweet; the song retaining a slow dance tempo. After these three gems things begin to slow down a little.
The mid section of Return To N.Y. is soft, and it isn’t until “Only the Stars” that things evolve back out of the slightly monotonous mix. “We lay on the hill in Greenwich park, the night stood still and everything(?) so dark. I fucked you and you fucked me,” von Malmborg sings, “and only the stars were watching.” A mixture of romance and sultry passion. “Human Clones” is the most experimental track to be found on the record, and for some reason, it reminds me of Radiohead’s “Like Spinning Plates” (both of which are second to last on their respective albums). Coincidence? Absolutely.
By the end of Return To N.Y. you can’t help but feel slightly cheated. What began so promisingly eventually proves to be an uneven affair; this album is good in sections. There are a lot of cool moments scattered across the record which makes you wish they would remain throughout. However, when things fall into place and the old fashioned music meshes perfectly with that ethereal croon, nothing could be more attractive. If you are a fan of vintage sounds and ‘other worldly’ voices then you will definitely enjoy what AK-Momo has to offer. It may be easily discernable as a first effort, but Return To N.Y. will please almost anyone with a soft spot for lush, cold and antique sounds.
- Andrew Iliadis
/mar 15th 2005/