Pick a Piper is the psych-electronica project of Caribou drummer Brad Weber, rounded out by Angus Fraser, Dan Roberts and, from time to time, a few guest vocalists. Their sound is friendly to both headphones and dance floors, with organic, acoustic textures blended with electronic layers and beats — not unlike Gold Panda, Baths or Weber's regular gig in Caribou.
Distance is both the title of Pick a Piper's new record and, unfortunately, its one main flaw: it's defined by emotional and cultural distance, especially in the first half. Opener "Geographically Opposed" sounds like evening news intro music at first, "Further and Further" and "Night Owl" are both pretty dull, and though the beat underlying "Still Awake" slinks and shuffles with a menace befitting the subject material (Brad Weber's sleep paralysis), the singing feels… boring. "Nikko," with its twisting modular synth parts and funky dance break, is the one highlight in this section of the album.
The latter half gets more interesting, with some mallet percussion (perhaps sampled from or at least inspired by Indonesian Gamelan music) complementing the grooves of "Flood of My Eyes" (which features the best singing on the album) and "January Feels Lost." The horns on "January Feels Lost" and "Three Years Today" add a pleasant texture, and the beat on the latter feels like a particularly funky synthesis of tropical rhythms and dubstep. Perhaps these songs and "Nikko" could've made a stronger EP.
Overall, Distance is still successful as functional dance floor music, and provides some thoughtful moodscapes, but the emotional heart that pumps life through the music of his contemporaries mentioned at the outset of this review is just a little bit too faint here. (Tin Angel)