Under Review: Maximum Balloon – Maximum Balloon

Though he’s the silent member of TV On The Radio (vocally speaking), multi-instrumentalist David Sitek is perhaps the group’s strongest sonic guide.  Aside from playing a ton of instruments on each album since the group’s inception, Sitek’s dense production style has defined TVOTR’s sound, as well as the sounds of the numerous other bands who have worked with Sitek.  With TVOTR on a year-long hiatus, Sitek has retreated to his favorite place, the studio, for a new collection of tunes that show off his knob-twiddling skills.  The self-titled debut from Maximum Balloon plays like a really great mixtape or DJ set, with a variety of vocalists tied together by Sitek’s signature flourishes.  Most of the singers are from groups that Sitek has worked with before, such as Karen O and Holly Miranda, though a few newcomers manage to find their way into the mix.  Maximum Balloon also quenches listeners’ desires for new TVOTR material, as both Kyp Malone and Tunde Adibimpe make appearances (albeit on two different tracks).  Kyp’s song, “Shakedown,” is a bit more focused than his own Rain Machine project, and “Absence Of Light” brings Tunde back from the doldrums of Massive Attack’s last album.

Sitek knows how to play to each of his guests’ strengths: “If You Return” is a glittery bounce that goes along with Little Dragon’s own synthesized agenda, and the closing “Pink Bricks,” with vocals from Shivaree’s Ambrosia Parsley, is appropriately smoldering.  If there’s anything to criticize here, it’s that Sitek mainly sticks with what he does best, though there isn’t too much harm in that.  “Tiger,” with Aku sounding like he’s gunning for Tunde’s spot in TV On The Radio, has a typically buzzy Sitek synth line, and, with “Apartment Wrestling,” David Byrne adds yet another guest credit to his increasingly lucrative résumé.  Maximum Balloon serves mostly to placate us until TV On The Radio regroup sometime next year, but as stopgaps go, this album’s pretty fun.  While it would’ve been interesting to hear Sitek’s voice on the disc somewhere, Maximum Balloon continues to prove that Sitek’s meticulous production work is his voice.

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~ by E. on September 8, 2010.

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