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Doves: Lost Souls

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England is notorious for fostering small armies of bedroom musicians, shy guys who noodle around prolifically, only to emerge as fully formed visionaries. Richard Warren, a.k.a. Echoboy, used to play in the appropriately named Hybrids before hiding out in his Nottingham home, hoping to reinvent himself. As Echoboy, Warren has done just that, but even after three albums, the jury is still out on the results. Volume 2 predictably and quickly follows this year's Volume 1, but his scope continues to expand. Where his poppy analog synth-and-sequencer experiments sometimes recall OMD at its most experimental (think Dazzle Ships) or more abrasive outfits like Suicide, the introduction of melodica and trippy effects shouts out "dub" like the man just discovered Augustus Pablo. Volume 2 features some nice experiments, notably the droning "Schram And Sheddle 262," the Krautrock-cum-punk of "Telstar Recovery" and "High Pitch Needs," and the Eno-pop of "Circulation," but the disc is too diffuse, disjointed, and (in its own sloppy way) derivative to hold together. Interesting ideas abound, though, and Volume 2's lack of cohesion could lead to a breakthrough some time soon, especially considering Warren's rapid evolution and incessant output. Like friend and fellow Mercury Music Prize honoree Damon Gough (a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy), Doves hails from Manchester, birthplace to a bevy of U.K. pop stalwarts who include Buzzcocks, New Order, The Smiths, Stone Roses, and many more. The group reunites former members of a band called Sub Sub, but it's fair to consider Doves a fresh start. Singer and bassist Jimi Goodwin and twin brothers Jez and Andy Williams (guitar and drums, respectively) don't exactly mine the most original territory, but the way they put it together provides a fair degree of musical intrigue. Falling somewhere between the bleary cinematic pop of Air and more traditional Mancunian dance-infused guitar bands, Doves makes modern psychedelic music, a necessary distinction considering the number of retro fakers. Subdued but dynamic songs ("Here It Comes," "Melody Calls," "Break Me Gently") lope along, subtly gaining moody power as they proceed. The secret to their success lies in the little melodies lurking beneath the dark surface: Small touches and tiny flourishes make the band's gloom something to gloat over. And when the band ups the aggression, as with "Catch The Sun" and "Darker" (one of three U.S.-only bonus tracks), the hint of menace becomes all the more palpable, as does the promise that Doves will be more than a mere studio threat. As with Echoboy, the band's work promises more good things to come, but few will doubt Doves' impressive head start.