Another December, another new release from Reindeer, who have nothing to do with the Christmas holiday. Last year’s debut album blended 70s influences with modern grooves, but for the duo’s new EP, Dan Currie and Damion Ceniccola apparently drew inspiration from George Miele’s seminal A Trip to the Moon and the 1920s.
This combination of influences helps certainly in looking at song titles like “Ray Gun” and “War of the Worlds,” but what you’ll get from City of Garden is akin to a shorter, more fun version of the classic Gorillaz album Demon Days. Currie and Ceniccola still bring catchy-as-hell beats to the table, but with a more noticeable hip-hop influence.
It’s hard to shake off the Gorillaz comaprison, especially when opener “Escape from the City of Garden” starts off with maniacal laughter. The instrumental piece could be music from a video-game soundtrack before it transitions to “Aquatic life vest” and its beep-boop synths. Ceniccola’s vocals make their first appearance here with a disarmingly hypnotic refrain: “Stop killing, oh stop killing, oh stop running away.”
The first two songs slowly bring listeners into the universe, and the following three songs ramp up the intensity. All three are about twice the tempo of the rest of the EP’s songs and also feature a children’s chorus for extra effect. The really quick drum machine and spirited kids’ vocals of”Ray Gun” will certainly quicken the pulse, and here Ceniccola can’t sound more like Damon Albarn if he tries. Meanwhile, he sounds heavenly at the beginning of “love, electronic” before he plays a kind of vocal hopscotch with the kids’ chorus. And finally, though only a minute long, “R5ADIO” packs the EP’s most overt hip-hop influences into a real banger, featuring only child vocals here.
The rest of the EP winds things down. “War of the Worlds” is surprisingly relaxed considering the HG Wells classic it references—even Ceniccola is singing in a more relaxed pace.
If there’s one gripe to be made it’s that “fhoning in” and “Exit is over,” while unexpectedly bringing in a ukulele to the proceedings, go on a little too long when the EP could have maybe ended on a more energetic note. Still, it’s hard to not get lost in the songs’ serenity.
Currie and Ceniccola have built an intriguing world out of this City of Garden; perhaps their next album could explore this sci-fi world even more thoroughly. Or, more likely, the two will create something completely different yet again, and that would be just fine.
Top Tracks: “Aquatic life vest”; “Ray Gun”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)