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Edwyn Collins
DOCTOR SYNTAX
(INSTINCT)

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The transition from traditional guitar-driven rock to mechanized trip-hop can be fraught with pitfalls, as big-league rockers like David Bowie have demonstrated by dabbling in electronica with lukewarm results. But on his fifth solo album, Edwyn Collins, the former frontman of the fey Scottish pop outfit Orange Juice, succeeds where others have failed, delivering a seductive set of electronica-spiked pop tunes that doesnít allow the high-tech production to overshadow his crucial caustic croon or his sharp dissections of the human temperament.

The seeds of Doctor Syntax were almost certainly sown when Collins guested on producer/DJ Trevor Jacksonís 2001 Playgroup album ó if nothing else, his appearance must have increased his comfort level with the tools of techno, and most of the tracks here feature the sort of casually funky drum programming thatís typical of Jacksonís style. "20 Years Too Late" even works up to a febrile disco tempo that complements Collinsís staccato guitar rhythms while still leaving plenty of room for multi-tracked vocal harmonies that connect all the way back to his OJ years. But Doctor Syntax never feels forced in its use of electronics, and nothing here feels like an experiment. The disc simply reveals him as a songwriter with no allegiance to a particular mode or genre.

BY MIKAEL WOOD

Issue Date: July 4 - July 10, 2003
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