Ilker YucelContinuing to mix synthpop modes with elements of world music, Null Device's third album is an appealing mix that will surely appeal to a wider audience.Null Device has been an intriguing entity in synthpop with their incorporation of world music and various international modes. This may not sound new in and of itself, but where most other groups would simply sample elements of world music from their ethnic origin of choice, the duo of Eric Oehler and Eric Goedken employ actual live instrumentation, blending their purely electronic constructions with the organic quality that helps each culture distinguish itself from the other. This mixture of Western and Middle Eastern tonalities help to give Excursions, Null Device's third full-length album, an appeal that is farther reaching than most other synthpop groups.
Beginning with the rhythmically dynamic “Triangular,” we are immediately treated to the band's worldly approach as waves of electrified ambience and vocal harmonies mesh with Dumbek percussion to conjure images of belly dancers in a Sultan's chambers. “Wonderland,” “Under the Gun,” and “Racing” follow with a series of angular synth lines and almost geometric percussion patterns not dissimilar to IDM, while “Down the Line” is slightly more funky and jazzy, like Lalo Schifrin doing trip-hop. Oehler's voice is enticingly melodic throughout the album, accompanied by chilled layers of vocoder, putting him on par with Iris' Reagan Jones. Above all, Excursions is infectiously danceable, as proven by the breakbeat-laden “I Promise” and the almost psychedelic “Entwined,” both of which are filled with analog synth washes that encompass the listener in a blanket of sonic bliss, while “Snow and Joy” races by with a blistering techno beat complemented by Mariachi-style Spanish guitar solos.
With their usual host of backup musicians aiding them, Oehler and Goedken prove themselves with Excursions to be ahead of the pack. Where most synthpop groups are content to maintain a purely synthetic approach with only the occasional hints of live instruments to give their music some validity, Null Device prefer to allow the electronics to be a means to an end, being but a small ingredient in a much more eclectic and varied formula that can appeal not only to synthpop aficionados, but to a much wider audience as well. While it may not be dramatically different from what they've achieved before, the songs on Excursions are incredibly catchy and emotionally satisfying to boot. What more can you ask for?