When Ray Davies of The Kinks fame was asked if he listens to all those new bands, he replied that he only listens to their third albums. A Band prepares for its first album all its life but only has months to make the second. The third, on the other hand, is crucial in determining whether or not anything substantial can be brought in the long run; a defining moment that can either cement an artist's reputation or, sadly, show that all the good times, ideas and music are gone. Luckily for Bei the Fish, its third release, Just an Idea!?,is a good one.
Synthpop is back, but not in a retro manner that alludes only to the '80s, but filtered by Bei the Fish through a myriad of electronica styles that spans ages and genres. By upgrading and armoring itself with even greater digital precision and the pinprick percussion of new-edge electronica, the band delivers an album that successfully signposts a shift that's obvious, especially when compared to Time to Make Things Right (PMG Recordings, 2009) and the theatre music of Boat for Dolls (PMG Recordings, 2010). There were highlights and ideas, to be sure, but they lacked the broader set of colors and expansive sounds, instead delivering a narrow sound picture.
Retaining the often imaginative sampling and pop sound that characterized the previous two albums, the band introduces a highly atmospheric and textured ambiance. There are sudden, startling sounds, effortlessly compiled using machines and featuring noisy and electronically tingling genre-defying music. Partly an imaginary musical, Just an Idea is full of light, playful, hooky, and danceable numbers about love and life. It succeeds because of Bei the Fish's growth as a songwriting unit. The song-based vibe of the album begins in earnest with the opening "It's Over" and lead single "When I was Young"; from there, the album unfolds in confident and enigmatic combinations, with guest appearances from Foltin vocalist Branko Nikolov, and pop singers Karolina Gocheva and Ola Dioss.
Regardless of what they are singing on top of their architectronics, the band accesses unusual dimensions and irregular angles, its textures sliding across one another. The tracks are constructed with incredible attention to detail with all those minimal beats, synth washes, film music influences, '70s analogue warmth and soft porn-like vocals.
If anything, it proves that Bei the Fish remains capable of absorbing the flood of electronica into pop music with integrity and sophistication. The cohesive stylistic direction that Just an Idea has taken results in it being one of the most memorable electronic releases of the year.
Track Listing: It's Over; When I Was Young; The Dream; Big City-Mixed Up; Called You Once; I'm On My Own; Just a Game; Inter Mission; Dating Game.