Damon & Naomi

False Beats and True Hearts

By Steve Morse
Globe Correspondent / May 17, 2011

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On their first album of new songs in four years, Damon & Naomi (formerly of trance-rockers Galaxie 500) offer no big surprises, other than more upbeat lyrics and more ambient piano from Naomi, buttressed by the curiously psychedelic noise scratchings of guitarist Michio Kurihara, who seems like a fractured Jeff Beck at times. The slow, deliberate tempos remain mannered. It adds up to misty, cerebral soundscapes that can be sonic Valium, but also have moments of poignant beauty as on the heartening “Nettles and Ivy’’ and the trippy “How Do I Say Goodbye,’’ with Kurihara plying his electronic effects to sound almost like bagpipes. Naomi’s high-pitched, otherworldly vocals lend a gauzy tone to the romantic “Shadow Boxing’’ and the lost-love lament “And You Are There.’’ Damon takes over on the fragile, nostalgic “Walking Backwards’’ (“For me I’m not the kind who lives forward in time,’’ he sings in an understatement) and the feathery, faraway-sounding “Helsinki.’’ Damon & Naomi have refined a formula at this point — and their cult of fans should appreciate this new glimpse — but for others it may still be an acquired taste. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “Walking Backwards’’

Damon & Naomi play Great Scott May 23.