Any student of microeconomics can tell you about the right to free disposal. It’s the assumption that more stuff can’t possibly make you worse off, that having options or excess can never be a bad thing.
And this is one of the big differences (there are many, thank god) between economic theory and good music. Give a musician too many sounds—too many colors to paint with—and what you often get is a thicket of noise with no light filtering through the cracks. Once you have the tools, the temptation to use them is always there.
As an indie musician well versed in electronic production, ceo’s Eric Berglund seems likely to fall into the trap. Wonderland, ceo’s second and latest album, opens with a spoken sound bite: “I felt like I opened Pandora’s box,” states a male voice, “and now I have to close it.” The question for the rest of the album is whether Berglund can in fact keep Pandora’s box closed and steer clear of excess, camp, and over-stimulation.
At first glance, an opener titled “Whorehouse” doesn’t bode well for an album aiming at restraint. But Berglund surprisingly succeeds; he crafts an album that displays all the hallmarks of being overwrought and overenthusiastic—disembodied voices, pinging synthesizers, a song called “OMG”—without any of the music actually being overwrought. Wonderland is tasteful and colorful and catchy as all hell, all of Berglund’s millions of components somehow fitting together coherently.
The line between taste and a lack thereof, however, is a thin one, and while Berglund manages to walk it for most of the album, it leaves him little room to maneuver. The result is an album that, for all its distinct moving parts, manages to sound quite similar from one song to the next (some of the best moments are departures in tonality, like the slinky “Mirage). But if you’re going to stick to a sound for an entire album, the one ceo chooses is a good one on Wonderland: danceable, weirdly beautiful, and certainly unique.