Yello Pocket Universe Mercury 534 353-2

High camp comparable with one of Ed Wood's sci-fi debacles
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"The Big Bang", intones Dieter Meier ominously on "Solar Driftwood", the opening track of Yello's 10th album, is "the divine intergalactical bass drum connecting the tribes of our solar systems". A fancifully New Age notion in anybody else's hands, perhaps, but these Swiss tricksters' tongues are never far from their cheeks, so when Meier goes on to describe music as "a sign of consciousness that could be understood on far-flung worlds millions of light years from our horizon", you have to chuckle. So that's why we've never made contact with extraterrestrials: they've been tuning into the Eurovision Song Contest.

What, though, would they make of Pocket Universe, as lubricated and dashing an album as Yello have made in their 18-year career? This, surely, is the intergalactic language par excellence, its grooves sculpted to make even alien limbs twitch in time, its arrangements devised to reflect all manner of emotional hues. For such an avowedly machine-based music, there is a huge range of expression in Boris Blank's carefully-constructed soundscapes: the erotic fever of "More", the looming, golemic grandeur of "Monolith", the silicon bustle of "Resistor".

The range of reference is wider than most techno-based albums, too, with the ghost of Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune flitting around the spooky ruins of "Monolith", and that of Yello's own "Bostich" (from 1979) pulsing through the railway rhythm of "On Track". And whenever Meier's various vocal parts don't quite fit a role, there's usually a Billy Mackenzie or a Stina Nordenstam on hand to add their own peculiar flavour to a track: the latter, especially, is responsible for one of the album's most successful tracks, adding a tart, bittersweet tang to the light techno souffle of "To the Sea".

It's Meier's dapper good humour that gives the album much of its appeal, though. Where most techno acts seem either lifeless or self-important, he realises the value of laughter, and is never afraid of appearing ridiculous. Thus does the album end on a note of high camp comparable with one of Ed Wood's sci-fi debacles, with Meier in lab-coated pontificate mode again, offering irrefutable proof of the magical nature of science. For any eavesdropping aliens out there, it's also proof that, yes, there is intelligent life on earth - and, more importantly, that it's prepared to laugh at itself.