Thursday, 24 September 2009

Review: Idle Cranes - Fur Release

Post-punk band Idle Cranes have been been playing around the traps for a few years now, but have just recently released their debut record, Fur Release. The band seems to think of it as an EP, but with nine tracks and a running time of around 40minutes it's equally as valid to think of it as a full length album. With a production style that hearkens back to the post-punk records of the late 70s / early 80s (ie: not much low end, LOTS of reverb and feedback, buried vocals that are largely indecipherable) it's not an easily digestible piece of music either, but it's not without rewards for those who persist with it.

The record starts of with the instrumental 'L'Amour', a spiky piece of down-tempo post-punk that somewhat sets the template for much of the record in its minute-and-change length: trebly guitars, distant thundering drums, monolithic distorted bass that somehow stays in the sonic shadows despite its volume. 'Frigate' introduces vocals into the mix, with both of the band's singers sharing the mic on the song - Jon's languid, British sounding croon laying the foundations while Jakeb's more colloquial bark cutting through the middle, his speak-singing sounding more like the vocalisations of your average post-hardcore vocalist than a post-punk one. 'High Heels Low Brow' closes off the more accessible first third of the record with the most immediately likable slice of music on the disc, disco drums and all. If Fur Release were to have a single, this would be it.

In it's live incarnation, 'Ghost Train' is an absolute monster. Slow, menacing, oppressively loud. This recording doesn't capture that side of it at all, instead the song comes across as monotone and repetitive, with pretty much no dynamics or significant changes in its 7minute span. Drums are reduced to a metronomic tapping in the background, the bass is neutered of any power and the song is reduced to an exercise in mood and texture. Strange, then, that it's not a total write-off (though cutting a minute or so out of the first half might have done the track a favour). The song is probably the biggest challenge on the record, almost as if the band is daring you to make it to side two. Those who do will be greeted by the somewhat schizophrenic 'Discotheque' (cool riff at the 2minute mark) and the relentless, tribal 'Tetrahydreen'. In combination with 'Ghost Train' this trio makes up the decidedly strange middle third of the record.

The final third of Fur Release is probably the strongest, but also the most oblique. 'Mexico' takes the murky atmospherics to their logical limit, slowing things down to a introspective crawl and, in the process, becoming the most successful recording on the album. 'Two Horse Race' is probably the Idle Crane's finest live track, and though the band's chosen recording style has sapped the song of some of its oppressive power from the live setting (much like 'Ghost Train'), it still stands out as one of the highlights of the disc. The verses are propulsive, while the choruses increase the intensity by just enough to highlight the epic nature of the chord progression. 'DFD41' finishes things off with some more atmospherics, utilizing some found sound loops, an acoustic guitar and some droning vocals to bring things to a soothing yet disquieting end. It's one hell of a comedown to a record that doesn't give an inch over its entire running time.

By taking such a strong stance in terms of creating a uniform, highly stylised sounding record, Idle Cranes have created a somewhat more divisive record than they perhaps might have with a more 'true to life' presentation. Such conviction is to be applauded, especially in such a young band, even if the results are perhaps to the detriment of individual songs. The band has obviously wanted to create a real record, as opposed to a collection of loosely linked tracks. Some people have labelled the record as 'lo-fi', but that's not really accurate. This isn't something recorded on a cassette four-track in someone's garage, it has been intentionally constructed to sound a certain way and create a certain mood. In this respect the record is a success (extra credit also needs to be given when considering that the band pieced the record together from multiple recording sessions at a variety locations, although four of the tracks were recorded at the (new defunct?) Valley Studios by Glenn Agnew).

There is certainly a consistent mood that runs through the entire record - often this can create a sameness to the music, and this is arguably the case here. However, after living with the album (or EP, whatever) for a bit of time the listener is able to get past the murky sounds and hear that there is actually a remarkably wide breadth of music on display. Strangely enough, it's easy to imagine that with a more orthodox production style Fur Release could actually seem a little bit scattered. The fact that it instead comes across as quite cohesive would indicate that this is a band with a fairly strong idea of where it's headed, even if at this stage it does seem to occasionally get lost . Still, their success rate is high enough that this record (and their live show) comes recommended.

You can currently listen to the entirety of Fur Release record at the band's myspace page.

1 comment:

DollHouse said...

My daughter and I when to Doll House to buy a Sherri Lee dress that my daughter was obsessed with. I received no service from the sales staff until I asked. They gave my daughter a few styles to try on when asked what size my daughter would be, she pointed at the dress my daughter had on and said “that size”. I noticed that the dresses had no size tags on them and when I asked the sales staff about that, they got frustrated with me and gave no explanation. So I left the store with a much deflated daughter, went home and ordered the dress online and saved $200.