CD, Diffusion Records, 2009
Active since 1999, the Low Technicians project (consisting of core members Brad MacAllister and Brian Pearson) has a scant few releases to its name, the latest being “Riga”. MacAllister (also of CTRL) and Brian Pearson (live guitarist for Iris) form the core of this electropop outfit from Austin, Texas, which claims as its focus a melodic melding of pop and rock, via the medium of electronic dance music; a suitably generic categorization, in any case, for an album consisting of repetitive synthpop standards with mediocre vocals and a splash of guitar for texture.
It is unclear why Low Technicians chose to name an album after the Latvian capital, perhaps to make it sound a bit exotic in a Baltic fashion. Ranging from beat heavy and dance floor ready to navel-gazing balladic, this collection of eight tracks is shadowy, as might be expected, but not dark. “Riga” follows in the vein of darkwave/synthpop giants such as Wolfsheim or De/Vision, though falls decidedly far from the quality of these projects in execution. Kicking off with all-too-familiar synthpop bounciness, vocals a mixture of melancholic wistfulness and motivational optimism, “Miles Away” is a sort of litmus test for listeners – you either hate it or you love it. If this track is too much to bear, then forget trying the rest. On the other hand, tracks such as electro-heavy “Energy Inside” or sing-along “We Might Break” are perhaps more palatable.
“Riga” loses momentum about halfway through, slowing down through the calm-yet-penetrating, somewhat minimal beats of “There was a Time” and its disconcertingly similar follower, “Otherside”. Well-constructed pieces both, but better placed apart from each other in retrospect. Ending song “Choices” is disappointing, a sad limping off-screen in place of the introspective, emotional closer it is intended to be. Overall the upbeat tracks on “Riga” are bland club fodder and little more, while the slower and more spacious tracks are vaguely interesting, if only for their atmosphere. The guitars do add a welcome touch, however, and is an aspect that Low Technicians might find worth pursuing in the future, hand-in-hand with developing the electronics in a less generic fashion.
— Dutton Hauhart