Stateless: Stateless

Given that they're as inevitable as they are unavoidable, let's get the references out of the way immediately, as probably every review of Stateless's self-titled debut will make note of the band's kinship with Radiohead and Coldplay. Yes, the phrasing of Stateless's lead singer Chris James at times evokes Thom Yorke (though James distances himself from the Radiohead frontman with a soulful falsetto nicely worked out in the opener “Prism #1” among others) and Chris Martin (on “Down Here” and “Running Out”) while the central presence of piano also aligns the band to Coldplay, but Stateless separates itself from kindred ‘rock' outfits with its own innovative spin on the genre (“This Language” weds a rap by Solesides member Lateef the Truthspeaker and an insistently see-sawing violin to the band's orchestral rock crunch). The Leeds-based band pairs the more conventional core of vocals (James), bass (Justin Percival), and drums (David Levin) with the electronic mesh of turntables and sampling (Kidkanevil) and live programming (Rod Buchanan Dunlop ). What comes out the other side is a provocative blend that bridges the gaps between classic rock, hip-hop, funk, and electronic music.

Stateless establishes itself strongly with glitchy funk, swelling vocal harmonies, and orchestral strings in the dramatic “Exit” but impresses even more in “Bloodstream,” a piano-based ballad boosted by turntablism, a languorous, sensual vocal performance, and, most of all, alluring melodies (the haunting keyboard figure in the verse and an affecting swoon in the chorus); equally memorable is the gorgeous and dramatic closer “Inscape.” James is clearly an accomplished and versatile singer (he guests on DJ Shadow's The Outsider) who easily navigates the ascent from emotive ache to soaring falsetto though a song like “Crash” suggests he'll have to work harder to overcome the Chris Martin similarities if he hopes to establish his own vocal identity. Finally, that Stateless is a band, not a studio construction, is attested to by the robust attack Levin brings to the 7/8 groove in “Radiokiller” and the energized live feel that reigns throughout, especially evident in the explosive climax that ends “Bluetrace” with such ferocity.

June 2007