The Other People Place – Lifestyles of the Laptop Café

3 out of 5

Label: Warp

Produced by: The Other People Place

I do love James Stinson.  I dig his applied mythology; the way his cuts seem to wind through an unaffecting house style into something more nuanced and emotional.  Mostly, I love the way that he caught me off guard: that Translluion’s L.I.F.E. (my first Stinson-touched work) kept finding its way into my playlist despite my being unable to justify it, so far was it, stylistically, from the more directly IDM stuff I preferred.  And so I ventured beyond, to Drexciya, and lately, to the Clone Aqualung label, issuing his other works.

I’ve read a lot of reviews – old and upon the rerelease – of Lifestyles of the Laptop Café, the only Other People Place Stinson was able to release before his death – and I was excited to get my ears on it and toss mine own cents into the opinion hat.  …Now ready to do so, since every review I’ve read has been pretty glowing, I’m reminded that i still have no idea what I’m talking about in most cases (except maybe when it comes to soulDecision), because I don’t quite hear the genius and subtlety in this album that others do.  I hear some exceedingly pleasing cuts, and dashes of – maybe unintended – humor, but the disc is also bemarked by something of a tossed off sensibility: songs written between other activities.  Which could be meta commentary on its supposed life-meets-technology themes, and that’s all fine and good, but it doesn’t enhance the listen for me.

The first two tracks, of somewhat humorous vocal clips layered over extremely downtempo grooves, unfortunately typify the above description and end up coercing one’s opinion early on.  The songs get your head bobbing, but also end rather abruptly, nor do they evolve much past their first go ‘roubd.  The following Moonlight Rendezvous is a win, conjuring up something that’s a swirl of organic and house beats, existing on a vibe between joy and curiosity.  Later in the album, the song titles seem to tell of a more emotional journey – Let Me Be Me; Running From Love – but they sort of match the limited scope of the openers, preventing too deep of a connection.

These are the two themes I hear on the album.  It’s certainly accomplished – there is, undoubtedly, someone professional and skilled twiddling these knobs – but it’s also an album that perpetually feels like a work in progress; ideas Stinson was trying to get out but which hadn’t yet been fully realized.