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 Nineties the band has offered a uniquely seductive and cosmic fusion of jungle rhythms, dubby bass grooves, jazzy Fender Rhodes chords, and singer Margaret Fiedler's Madonna-with-a-brain style, earning comparisons with hypnotic postrockers like Stereolab and Tortoise along the way.

Laika may have gotten a bit dense on 2000's Good Looking Blues, filling its normally minimalist foundation up with electric guitars, horns, and woodwinds, but those extraneous elements are history on Wherever I Am I Am What Is Missing, its fourth studio album. It 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 is doing just fine.

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Michael Alan Goldberg