By Trevor Pour
Has there been a band in the last two years to take a steeper path to greatness than The Duo? These two boys rose from a catchy electronic jazz band to one sought after by members of Phish, The Dead, The Slip, Jazz Mandolin Project - the list goes on. Their newest release, Play Pause Stop, meets and exceeds the expectations that have steadily mounted since their debut album in 2004. Joe Russo and Marco Benevento have refined their superhuman ability to manipulate time and tempo, as the very duality of the duo merges towards a singular entity and fractures back towards distinction throughout the whole of the album. An air of subtle control permeates each track, and each note is as crisp as it is weightless. Fans, as well as new listeners, will surely savor this album. With the possible exception of mere duration, Play Pause Stop is pure excellence.
As any fan of The Duo knows, these albums serve as a loose base for live performances, merely giving structure and composition to the impulsive counterpoint manifested on stage. Play Pause Stop, compared to these performances, is vividly precise and expertly produced – a different creature, but in no way less captivating. The flow of the album proceeds similarly to each track – these masters manage time as a physical substance, crafting an organic and unforced mood. Track shifts feel natural, unhurried, and deliberate.
Stylistically, Play Pause Stop isn't much different than their first album, Best Reason to Buy the Sun, save for some ethereal vocals on the title track. The nine tracks, weighing in at a fairly brief 48 minutes, never fail to impress but certainly leave the listener wanting. The title track, "Hate Frame," and "Echo Park" come the closest to capturing the magical element of The Duo's energy and stand out amongst an entire album of great tracks. The title track for their first album, "Best Reason to Buy the Sun," finally appears on this disc, as well as the popular "Soba," featuring fast-paced interplay. Two new creations, "Something for Rockets" and "Walking, Running, Viking," will appeal to a broad range of listeners, as they move at a slower pace and break ever slightly from the Duo's abstract jazz roots. "Powder" is a phenomenal new composition, which highlights The Duo's ability to subtly alter tempo. In no track does a single member of The Duo outshine or stand over the other; the beauty of this band and this album is the harmony created at virtually every moment. Play Pause Stop simply captures elements of The Duo that live shows can obscure in their wild intensity - the natural and fragile beauty of the music. And as is true with all great albums, Play Pause Stop gets better and better with every spin.
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