SOMATIC Album Sampler (Universal)

This is a five-track sampler containing excerpts from Somatic’s forthcoming debut album, Somatic (ditch the name! Ditch the name!!) being a boy/boy/girl called Damien, Bernie and Fleur, the sort of lineup which invites immediate comparisons with the likes of One Dove, Saint Etienne and, not a million miles away from the ground they tread, Portishead.

Somatic aspire to make cinematic, widescreen music, and to this end all of their songs seem to be cushioned in huge brass and string arrangements, the kind of thing Neil Hannon (Mr Divine Comedy) might reject for being too elaborate. Sometimes they play the cheese card a little too strongly as well; some sections here veer too closely to the likes of Combustible Edison (q.v.) for comfort (well, for my comfort, at least). But when Somatic push the button, you end up with something like "Go Between", a happy collision of gospel, hip-hop, the smack of real drums and Fleur’s honey ‘n’ sass vocals...and that fully justifies the acreage of hype on the inside of the CD cover and the lavish promotional campaign they seem to have won themselves.

SOMATIC The Bop Apocalypse (Universal)

"The Bop Apocalypse" is Somatic's debut album, following the distribution of last year's five track sampler CD to just about every ligger on the outer fringes of the industry (myself included!). Being a band consisting of a female vocalist and two backroom boys in charge of song creation and DJing tasks, and with many tracks swathed in huge, expensive string and horn arrangements, Somatic seem to be desperately clinging on to the coat-tails of acts operating in the more sophisticated end of the trip-hop genre, for example Portishead, Massive Attack and Alpha.

Which isn't to say that "The Bop Apocalypse" isn't at least partially enjoyable. Songs such as "Throwing For Six", "Go Between", "Rocking Chair" and "No. 9" would clearly love to be huge slabs of late 60s film soundtrack ballads, Bacharach to the core, but have become agreeably smudged and defocused in translation - they wooze and sway unpredictably in a manner that sets them apart from the more strictly regimented and programmed output of, for example, Portishead. But overall "The Bop Apocalypse" is the kind of album that you have a hard time remembering anything about after you've listened to it, a feeling that, along with the almost comically arty booklet photography (disembodied silhouettes cavorting under electricity pylons), suggests that, at present at least, Somatic are a victory of style over substance.