BY JENNIFER KELLY
Sonically spare but stuffed with conflicting ideas, Ava Luna’s second full-length jerks and jitters through Ubu-ish funk-punk, ESG’s syncopated minimalism and the willful eclecticism of latter day outfits like Dirty Projectors and Buke and Gase. A thread of R&B runs fitfully through all these influences, but Ava Luna takes it further, opposing wire-brush abrasion with creamy cool. In “Crown,” for instance, singer Carlos Hernandez floats a tremulous falsetto up into eerie Jeff Buckley territory, while the caustic guitar stutter of “Plain Speech” is soothed with Al Green-ish croons.
Interesting juxtapositions proliferate, but Ava Luna often seems to be pursuing oddity for its own sake. The best cuts here are the most unitary, the blistering, spasmic seesaw of “Daydream,” which strips the Talking Heads’ afro-punk beat down to black-and-white essentials, or the cracked disco come-on of “Electric Balloon,” all staccato stabs and electro-shocked “ah, ah, ahs.” “Crown,” too, has its moments, though, a backwards-mirror of Buckley’s “So Real,” a quiet storm in a parallel universe. Yet the eccentricity seems too carefully plotted, too similar to other bands to really startle. Have you noticed that when the kids all want to be different, they end up doing it in exactly the same way?
DOWNLOAD: “Daydream,” “Crown”