Free and legal MP3: The Luxembourg Signal (artful, guitar-oriented dream pop)

With a hypnotic groove grounded in organic drumming and a slightly off-kilter chord progression, “Laura Palmer” doesn’t reveal its “Twin Peaks” connection readily, but it’s there.

The Luxembourg SIgnal

“Laura Palmer” – The Luxembourg Signal

With a hypnotic groove grounded in organic drumming and a slightly off-kilter chord progression, “Laura Palmer” doesn’t reveal its Twin Peaks connection readily—I for one can’t make heads or tails out of the lyrics—but over the course of its almost six minutes, I do hear allusions to Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic musical landscape. Listen, for instance, to the protracted synth lines that float above the briskly moving foreground. Listen, as well, to the ominous rumble of guitar noise that rears its head down below after the 2:20 mark. And in general there’s a melancholy that weaves itself through the song that surely conjures the at once melodramatic and tragic fate of David Lynch’s mythological victim.

This is one of those fortunate longer songs that creates such a seductive atmosphere as to feel, still, rather too short than too long. To my ears, it’s the artful amalgam of voice and guitar that carries “Laura Palmer” to such an exquisite place. At first the meet-up is mostly between Betsy Moyer’s voice and one finger-picked, jangly-toned electric guitar; even though I have referred to the song’s “groove,” let me note that the feel is all gentle and melodic here, not rhythmic or beat-based. More of a wall of guitar sound emerges as the song develops, but even as the texture grows in density, an overall feeling of delicacy persists. As with Twin Peaks, the song seems to exist in its own time and place. (This isn’t nearly as weird as the TV show, however.)

The Luxembourg Signal is a seven-piece band based in Los Angeles. Various members have their roots in the band Aberdeen in the ’90s, and vocalist Beth Arzy was last seen passing through these parts as a member of Trembling Blue Stars (featured here way the hell back in 2004, for the similarly woozy, name-inspired song “Helen Reddy”). “Laura Palmer” is a song from the album Blue Field, the band’s second, released in October on Shelflife Records. MP3 via Magnet Magazine.

Free and legal MP3: Class Actress (electro-pop w/ a groove)

Rather than float above with requisite frosty archness, a match for the cold equipment around her, Harper pretty much purrs her way through this one. Whether down in the rich tone of her lower register for the verse or in the airier range of the chorus, Harper sings as if maintaining a wry, secret smile throughout, regardless of the emotional wreckage traced by the lyrics.

“Careful What You Say” – Class Actress

Given the synthesizer’s inherently goofy sound–the rubbery beeps and boops, the cartoonish echoes, and so forth–it’s a bit surprising, now that I think about it, that the instrument isn’t more jovially presented as a rule. Indeed, the synthesizer is offered up rather humorlessly in rock music by and large, far more often used with austerity or gravity than with a sense of humor, even when–or maybe especially when–propelling dance music of one kind or another.

Not so with “Careful What You Say.” From the opening noodles, the synthesizer tones are charged with something resembling mirth, if not flippancy. After the song settles into a seductive electro-groove–no organic instruments in sight–something else now goes against the electro-pop guidebook, which is front woman Elizabeth Harper’s singing. Rather than float above with requisite frosty archness, a match for the cold equipment around her, Harper pretty much purrs her way through this one. Whether down in the rich tone of her lower register for the verse or in the airier range of the chorus, Harper sings as if maintaining a wry, secret smile throughout, regardless of the emotional wreckage traced by the lyrics. As for that exquisitely breezy chorus, I like it all the more for how it is fitted into a song that refuses simply to be about its groove–and refuses, in the process, to take itself too seriously. (If you have any doubts about that latter point, check out the instrumental break that begins at 3:17; and just wait for it.)

Class Actress began as a solo project for Harper, but has become a full-fledged band. On the MySpace page, Harper is listed as “Songwriter,” Mark Richardson as “Beatmaker,” and Scott Rosenthal as “Heartbreaker.” “Careful What You Say” is a song from the trio’s debut EP, Journal of Ardency, slated for a February release on Terrible Records. MP3 via Pitchfork.