- There are a few key differences between COMA's debut LP, In Technicolour, and This Side Of Paradise, the Cologne duo's second full-length for Kompakt. It took nearly three years of jamming, recording, sculpting, rearranging, and so on to arrive at In Technicolour's 12 tracks. Paradise was completed in six months, with George Conrad and Marius Bubat collaborating as much through "file sharing" and "the cloud" as in-person sessions. Despite these differences, the pair's strengths and weaknesses have changed little on This Side Of Paradise.
Across This Side Of Paradise, sonic worlds blend together to form a number of different hybrids. Conrad and Bubat lean further into modern synth pop, but continue to slyly weave elements of clean-cut club music through the sound. Opener "Borderline" is a melancholic composition that plods along for seven foggy minutes, brightened only by sparse vocal mutters and sparkling arps. "Pinguin Power" is disarmingly fun, driven by a hand-strummed bassline and featuring a revolving door of melodic elements. "The Wind" sneaks tropical rhythms beneath downtrodden chords and the raspy vocals of Paradise's only guest, Dillon.
The album mostly avoids 4/4 rhythms, instead allowing kick patterns to bounce and thump more playfully along the grid. The lack of a familiar dance floor pulse seems to signal that, despite being influenced by dance music's production values, the group isn't concerned with how it all fits into a club context.
That being the case, This Side Of Paradise relies heavily on the merits of its songwriting, and unfortunately, it provides a mixed bag in that regard. Appearing second in the tracklist, "Lora" (smartly served as the album's lead single) best showcases Conrad and Bubat's abilities. Its sweet chords and delicate vocal layers naturally follow the gentle ebb and flow laid out by the track's base—that is, a crisp, languidly skipping drum machine that's accented every so often by dry tom rolls and waves of arpeggiated chords. More so than its counterparts, "Lora"'s arrangement feels effortless; the formula behind its construction is allowed to gently melt away, rendering its emotional content all the more potent.
Little else approaches the success of "Lora." All smartly arranged and cleanly produced, "Poor Knight," "The Sea," and closer "Happiness" can't find any kind of hook that sinks in with the same ease or lands with the same lasting impact. Paradise, too, doesn't do better than it's predecessor. For all its melodic savvy and synthesis of ideas, the album doesn't push COMA's sound past where it was two years ago.
03. The Wind
04. Pinguin Power
05. Verse Chords
06. Poor Knight
07. The Sea