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Supreme Beings of Leisure: New CD is worth the wait

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When Supreme Beings of Leisure burst onto the scene in 2000 — largely through word of mouth on the Internet — they were placed squarely in the trip-hop camp, with their electronica inspired grooves, sampled sounds and programmed loops. SBOL was a dance band, but fans also recognized SBOL was a band with a difference — songs that were actually songs, a singer who could really sing and a laid back aura that recalled Martinis and turquoise counter tops in a smoke-filled lounge.

It’s been two years since that momentous debut for the L.A.-based SBOL, and a lot has changed. Gone are founding members Kiran Shahani and Rick Torres, and much of the trip-hop edges have been polished away. The new CD, “Divine Operating System,” due out Sept. 10 (it’s not even in Amazon’s catalog yet), is lusher, groovier and more soulful. It could very well be the kind of break-through effort that transforms SBOL from Internet-phenomena to mainstream star.

The trademark lounge-cool is retained in this collaboration of Geri Soriano-Lightwood and Ramin Sakurai, but the R&B-tinged dance rhythms are smarter, more sophisticated and more infectious, if that is possible. This is stuff that makes even a 40+ rock-and-roll loving man like myself want to move. Guys like me aren’t supposed to like dance music, but this music is just too good to ignore.

The sound is so full and lush that it’s hard to believe these songs were written and recorded in somebody’s bedroom on a PowerMac. Apparently there are some natural instruments on the record, but the electronica essence never faulters. The truth is, electronica has never sounded so life-like. This is real music — real pop music, but it envelopes you. The music is so luxurious that it fills you with a desire to wrap yourself in the songs and let the pleasure waves embrace you.

And the feeling doesn’t subside through all 11 tracks on “DOS.” From the opening “Give Up,” and “Ghetto,” through the radio-friendly “Rock and a Hard Place” and “Divine” (my pick for smash-hit potential), “DOS” is a marvel of aural delight. This is the kind of music that belongs in a science fiction film about a future filled with computer-aided amusement. It’s no wonder SBOL has seemed so perfect for the Internet age.

As I listened the first two or three times through the CD, the sound called to mind new romantic acts from the early ’80s like Spandau Ballet and ABC, as well as a touch of Human League and plenty of ’70s era R&B funk. The melodic bass playing of Sheldon Strickland is just the thing to anchor the groove. But the heart and soul of SBOL is the voice of Soriano-Lightwood. Her clear and powerful voice is reminiscent of Annie Lennox, but without the masculine overtones. It is a freer, more refined instrument.

Most bands stumble on second CDs, and after losing two members, you wouldn’t expect SBOL to even survive. Not only has the band survived, it’s actually gotten better — and better in a way that should thrill old fans and scoop up legions of new ones.

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