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It’s a struggle to come up with anything to describe Tom Middleton’s Lifetracks because the album fails at every turn to be a moving experience. Middleton is one half of duo Global Communication, who blessed us with the wonderful 76:14, which is at turns beautiful and strange. On Lifetracks, however, Middleton seems to be striving for merely beautiful. This would be fine in and of itself, except that Middleton goes for this ideal via a somewhat Moby-esque (perfect for car commercials and cafés) kind of ambience that can’t help but disappoint his listeners given his history. “Shinkansen” begins with the sort of high-pitched bell synth and nature sound combo that pushes the music toward the new age label, eventually progressing into an utterly unoffensive lite-techno piece complete with bendy basslines and modulating sequencer work. “Moonbathing” is as lush as its title suggests, with piano chords and hollow melody lines occasionally giving way to guitar-generated textures underneath a Weather Channel beat, while “Sea of Glass” tries desperately to make two repeated piano notes interesting by way of string synths and some more high bells. The only truly moving moment to be found on the entire album lies at the end of the final track, “Enchanting”, where a wall of synths gives way perfectly to an unconventional downtempo beat surrounded entirely by silence. Regrettably, on an album that surpasses 69 minutes, this beautiful little moment happens about 67 minutes too late.

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Mike Schiller is a software engineer in Buffalo, NY who enjoys filling the free time he finds with media of any sort -- music, movies, and lately, video games. Stepping into the role of PopMatters Multimedia editor in 2006 after having written music and game reviews for two years previous, he has renewed his passion for gaming to levels not seen since his fondly-remembered college days of ethernet-enabled dorm rooms and all-night Goldeneye marathons. His three children unconditionally approve of their father's most recent set of obsessions.


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Tom Middleton - Shinkansen
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