Ceo – White Magic (album review)

Although they aren’t a band that I go to on a consistent basis, I have a couple CDs by the Swedish duo The Tough Alliance in my collection and inevitably find myself singing along to their sugary sweet electronic pop whenever they end up playing. Ceo is the Nom de Plume of Eric Berglund, one-half of TTA, and his debut White Magic is the best thing that he’s had a hand in yet.

Ceo has a lot in common with The Tough Alliance, and there are elements (namely some of the lead synth melodies) that feel like they were plucked straight from the work of Berglund’s other gig. That said, this brisk (8 song, 29 minute) album feels more lush and fleshed out. There are chamber strings overlaying many of the pieces here, and a couple tracks that detour almost completely, in exciting and unexpected ways.

One of those pieces is “Oh God, Oh Dear,” a song that starts out with a blur of synth and a spoken word sample. Just about the time you think it’s going to launch into an electronic dance cut, it instead hops into a jaunty, all-acoustic baroque piece with a string quartet and some minimal percussion backing up a couple brief lines by Berglund. Sitting by itself, it might have sounded out of place, but with elements of the song introduced in other places on the album, the jump doesn’t seem so drastic.

“Oh God, Oh Dear” – Ceo

Elsewhere, the first single from the album (“Come With Me”) is almost straight-up Tough Alliance, with a stuttering vocal loop sample and loads of soaring synth lines along with some of the more emotive vocals from Berglund.

For my money, the best song on the release is the title track “White Magic.” Almost straight-up dance floor burner, it has its roots in techno music and pretty much kicks things out of the gate with some aggressive bass synth and warbling melodies that then flourish into some absolutely gorgeous builds and breakdowns.

“White Magic” – Ceo

One of the best electronic pop albums that I’ve heard in some time, White Magic is a great step forward for Berglund, and an album that packs a lot of ideas into a short running length and begs for replays.

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