Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr When it comes to the best and most interesting acts in recent British electronic and rock music, voice is absolutely central. What would Radiohead be without Thom Yorke’s soaring, ethereal falsetto? How could Hot Chip infuse their music with so much romantic longing if they didn’t have the harmonious vocal geometries of Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard? Why would we describe the music of Bat for Lashes as haunting if Natasha Khan’s voice weren’t like an echo from eternity? Unfortunately, a compelling voice is the key element absent from British group ALASKALASKA’s full-length debut, The Dots. The group consists of six members, but Lucinda Duarte-Holman provides the lion’s share of the vocals. There’s simply nothing distinctive about the way she sings across the LP’s 12 tracks. Her voice is like a crumb of paper in an ornate vase: out of place yet hardly even worthy of notice. The fault, however, is not entirely her own. ALASKALASKA is an ambitious sextet that’s interested in combining characteristics of indie rock and electronic music with aspects of jazz. In fact, three of the blokes in the group come from a jazz background, and the band has spoken about their use of improvisation and rawness as major features of their recording process. These very ambitions and idiosyncrasies, while fascinating in glances, make Duarte-Holman’s voice seem shallow and small. On “Meateater,” for example, we hear Fraser Smith’s alto saxophone in high definition, especially in the bridge, while Duarte-Holman sings of taste and definition. Her voice also loops in the background—“And you’re shuffling your feet/ For a beat you can eat”—which manages to exacerbate matters further: the sax is a groovy blouse to Duarte-Holman’s blank crewneck tee. The band’s grand sound does no favors for Duarte-Holman’s songwriting, either, which relies heavily on clichéd or otherwise bland images and notions. These hit their low point on “Tough Love,” which opens with the following couplet: “Who gives a shit about my opinions?/ Who gives a shit about my point of view?” Not us, regrettably, but we might give a shit if she expressed them in a more captivating way. The lyrics generally seem to have the best of intentions—to think about and critique contemporary political paradigms—but the language deployed is as unexceptional as her voice. This is not to say that the album is without its fascinating moments. Opener “The Dots” manages to hold the LP’s various musical components in precarious balance. The track builds from an Escher staircase of bubbly synth to a cymbal-crashing, electric view from below and finds ample space in its ending moments for those aforementioned jazzy improvisations. The album’s other highlight is the acoustic guitar-driven “Monster,” whose indie rock style seems more in Duarte-Holman’s wheelhouse. The song takes a subtler approach to fusion: there’s just enough electro flavor to surprise listeners and keep from overwhelming refined palates. Even if The Dots is disappointing as a whole, these tracks provide glimpses of a group with potential. ALASKALASKA would do well to locate and deploy stylistic touches that uncover and further refine Duarte-Holman’s talents. Perhaps these would involve bringing forward another vocalist in the mix or finding ways to more carefully weave together guitar, percussion, keys and wind instruments so as not to suffocate vocal and verbal elements. At this point, the band simply hasn’t found a way to convert its live, extemporaneous energy to a pre-recorded medium.