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How many different ways can you go within a certain genre without falling into dry repetition or derivition? Like many other labels that have carved out a specific niche in music, Clairecords is doing just that with shoegaze/dreampop, and surprisingly the answer to the question is "quite a few." Over the course of scores of release, the small label has put out excellent releases that span the genre, even dipping into Projekt-like ethereal ambience and electronic pop music.

Almost a year and a half ago, the label stumbled across the debut of the German band Malory, and after selling many copies of their import debut through their mailorder website, the label decided to pick them up for their next release. Outerbeats is just that release, and it mixes many of the above elements into something that is once again a nice little release for the label. Mixing live percussion with programmed beats, male/female vocals, and sheets of shimmering guitars (of course), the disc mines familiar territory while still managing to create some new and exciting sounds as well.

The album starts out with an absolute winner on the track "Lake Of Doubts," and after a thumping beat intro, the track drops off into a lush, two-part male/female vocal harmony in which Jorg Kohler adds warm baritone while Jordis Marschner floats above with wispy highlights. About halfway through, the triple-guitar attack builds into a hazy crescendo and although it isn't anything as loud as what you'd get from other groups, the subdued rise definitely recalls work by Slowdive. A similar formula is worked on "The Choice You Have," but it doesn't make the track any less effective, as a repetitive bassline strums while the two-part vocals again play off one another nicely.

Although it's not a huge stumbling point, the points in which the album doesn't quite hold up are when singer Marschner takes lead vocal duties. While she has lovely vocals for backup and chorus work, tracks like "Falling Shine" just don't have quite enough of a strong vocal presence with her in the lead to be as strong. Although they're used sparingly, the electronic beat work on the disc makes for some of the most interesting tracks. The first half of "Painted Dreams" clicks along through the stratosphere with some nice programming and more of the lovely vocal pairing before the second half gives way to live percussion and grounds things.

While it doesn't obviously stray a lot from different releases that have come out on the same label, Malory is definitely one of the more dynamic groups on the roster. While I mentioned plenty of drifting moments above, the group does crank up the volume on several tracks, most notibly "Space In Your Mind," which builds with pounding drums before dropping off into a quiet interlude for awhile. Proving there is still fertile room to explore in the crowded dreampop genre, Outerbeats is a solid sophomore release from Malory.

Rating: 7.5