At first blush, Bionica seems like any other jazz-rock outfit with a clear-throated, clear-headed, and somewhat winsome female lead vocalist, but whoops, here comes the vocoder: This quintet’s actually made a name for itself as quite the progressive electrojazz act, and if they happen to break into a galloping 4/4 romp or some proggish breakdown these days, so much the better. Jazz and EDM could both use a little air.
Attacking experimental music with a punkish energy, chill atmosphere and reassuring vocals is a difficult trick to pull off, and as fascinating as it can be, there are times on Future Settlers where it feels like the formula isn’t perfected yet. Lead singer Jenna McSwain’s grounded advice, social awareness and openhearted worldview can sometimes get compromised by the shifting dynamics and raw electronics, but when the lines all intersect, it can be magic: “Our Town” is some sort of Cranberries-Sundays nexus polished to a twenty-first century sheen, while “Ghosts” sounds like Ben Folds, Aphex Twin and Yes all happening at once. There’s even a little rock-god guitar on the closing “Bionic Takeover.” In the end, only the title track seems tied down to the complex ambiance they became noticed for on their 2010 EP Take Your City, but that’s both ironic and unimportant: The very phrase “future settlers” implies they’re not done roaming.