Onion AV Club

Left-field success couldn’t have happened to a more deserving artist than Jyoti Mishra. As the sole member of White Town, the indie stalwart sensibly signed a one-shot contract with EMI to exploit his extremely catchy synth-pop. Little did he expect that “Your Woman” and the album Women In Technology would become such big hits, but, having done far better than anyone could have predicted, Mishra put his money in the bank and jumped ship. Or maybe he was pushed.

In any case, White Town’s new Peek & Poke finds Mishra back on Parasol, the independent label that released his first recordings. Proving that nothing can quite match a major-label marketing push, Peek & Poke doesn’t seem on track to replicate its predecessor’s success, but it’s got just as much to offer.

Sticking to his formula of looped synth hooks and drum machines, as well as Sarah Records-styled low-key pop, Mishra illustrates that home recording can result in more than just mushy fuzz. Sharp both musically and lyrically, these songs have a way of sneaking into the subconscious. “Another Lover,” “Every Second Counts,” and “Duplicate” skate by on cool electro melodies and robotic funk beats, while “Why I Hate Drugs,” “In My Head,” and “I’m Alone” are gently guitar-driven.

Then there’s the sublime trip-hop perfection of “She Left For Paris,” a charmer in any context. But the real conceptual coup is “Excerpts From An Essay,” a Kraftwerk-esque epic that features a club-ready beat and a disembodied synthetic vocal intoning an academic treatise on the ideological and sociological ramifications of hip-hop. Some dismiss machine music as too cold, but in the hands of Mishra, it’s simply cool. – Joshua Klein

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June 27, 2004. Reviews.