In theory, the debut album by Salzburg, Austria-based group Roia, CUTE LITTLE FEAR, is an admirable affair. Their splendidly textured electronic pop shows that the group is pursuing a musical vision of their own rather than following current trends. The dreamy, trip-hop inspired songs have warm, full basslines and electric pianos over lush synthscapes and subdued programmed drums, with the occasional touch of drum'n'bass ("Suicide Butterfly on Your Back"). Everywhere throughout the record, echoing sounds fill the songs, and the fact that there is a male and a female singer (Nina Hochrainer and Dorian Wimmer) adds variety to the vocals. Unfortunately, in practice, the album isn't as exciting to listen to as the description may suggest. Both vocalists have pleasant, soft voices, but for the most part they feel bodyless and don't demand any attention -- and neither does the music itself: almost all of the songs have the relaxed tempo of your typical chill-out compilation, and there's no friction or drama in the songs. The whole record is so laid-back that ultimately it all becomes background music. There are a few exceptions: the first single, "Suicide Butterfly," is a sweet little pop song, "Humanize" has stronger vocals by Hochrainer, "Another Day" has a faster pace, and the album's best song, "Two Worlds Apart," has a dark undercurrent and a much more refined sense of space and dynamics. But these are just a few moments on an otherwise unenergetic record. It's all professionally produced and performed, but there's never a sense of urgency. Of course, "Roia" means "dream" in Persian, but even dreams can feel vivid and lively. Let's hope the group develops a bit of an edge on their second release.

This review was written for the All-Music Guide.

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Christian Genzel

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