Thursday, 31 March 2011

reviews: moddi, stranded horse, le reno amps

Moddi -  Floriography

Moddi - Floriography (***)

Floriography has already topped the charts in Pål Moddi Knutsen’s native Norway, which considering the unleavened tone is no mean feat; Damien Rice is the nearest equivalent in the UK charts, though O was a smash hits carnival by comparison. The evocative settings are permanently dialled to ‘freezing cold’ and ‘glum as mud’, but there’s something rather moving about the interplay between Knutsen’s tremulous voice and the oft-used wheezing accordion.

The opening tracks – an impassioned Rubble and majestic Magpie Eggs – mirror the first half of last year’s Rubbles EP (though curiously, the song Floriography is absent…), which in some ways was a more manageable dose of such a ponderous style. Of the new songs, Smoke is the highlight, beginning unassumingly before Knutsen flares up and lets loose. It helps guide Floriography away from tedium, just don’t expect to hear Reggie Yates gabbing over it any time soon.

Out 18th April

Stranded Horse - Humbling Tides

Stranded Horse - Humbling Tides (***)

Yann Tambour – formerly Thee Stranded Horse, now Thee-less – writes and performs on a miniature kora, a kind of African harp/guitar. Throughout Humbling Tides, its arpeggios sit at the fore, off-set by bi-lingual vocals and occasional strings.

A penultimate cover of What Difference Does It Make takes an enjoyable but unnecessary diversion from the core sound, its comparatively springy gait making the closing Halos more of a slog than it need be - unfortunate, since, when tackled alone, the finale is quite possibly the album’s pinnacle: intricate and atmospheric, though likely too unwieldy an entrance point for newcomers.

Luckily, Humbling Tides contains accessible moments as well, such as mood-setting opener And the Shoreline It Withdrew In Anger. The latter’s wordy title also underscores a possible kindred spirit in Joanna Newsom, and though something as deeply fascinating as Have One On Me seems unlikely at this juncture, there’s still plenty to admire.

Out 11th April

Le Reno  Amps - Appetite

Le Reno Amps - Appetite (***)

Amongst the more perplexing criticisms to crop up in reviews is ‘X is not life-changing’. How much personal tumult does a listener actually crave? How unstable must emotions be for cataclysmic transformation to be not just a rarity, but a legitimate yardstick with which to beat those who don’t measure up? Is a record that leaves a listener relatively unchanged really a failure; surely enjoyment, however transitory, is honourable in itself?

Take Le Reno Amps: they’re not life-changing (other than at the smallest biological level, with their catchy genre-hopping more than capable of getting the endorphins flowing) and they’re unlikely to be playing through your mind as you lie prostrate on your death bed. But for Appetite’s duration, they’ll lift spirits pleasingly with a mix of Elvis Costello-style pop (Saturation Day), haunted house theatrics (Never Be Alone) and Green Day circa Warning (You Must Remember). Screw hyperbole; that’ll do us nicely.

Out 18th April

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