In space, no one can hear you scream, so you might as well chill the fuck out. That's been the modus operandi of London's Laika, named after the Russian dog that rode Sputnik II into orbit in 1957. Since the early '90s, the band has offered a seductive and cosmic fusion of jungle rhythms, dub bass grooves, jazzy Fender Rhodes chords and singer Margaret Fiedler's Madonna-with-a-brain style, earning comparisons with hypnotic postrockers like Stereolab along the way.
Laika may have gotten a bit dense on 2000's Good Looking Blues, disrupting its normally minimalist foundation with electric guitars, horns and woodwinds, but those extraneous elements are history on Wherever I Am I Am What Is Missing, the band's fourth studio album. The record puts the focus squarely on the syncopated beats, and the results are as dynamic and crisp as a November in New England on "Falling Down" and "Barefoot Blues," and exotically mesmerizing on "Diamonds and Stones." Though its accompanying textures, consistently fashioned from electric piano and ambient samples, are somewhat predictable, Fiedler's intimate delivery -- simultaneously pop sweet and spooky noir -- usually keeps things interesting. Laika the dog, sadly, didn't last too long in space, but Laika the band seems to be doing just fine.