Friday, 8 June 2012

reviews: the grand gestures, mina tindle, volcano!

The Grand Gestures – The Grand Gestures 


The Grand Gestures - The Grand Gestures (***)

There’s No Place Like Home: both a song title and a maxim for Jan Burnett’s new project The Grand Gestures. The Spare Snare founder invited six collaborators round to his to drape their vocals across lo-fi instrumentals, and the results are as diverse as his guest-list. On spooky opener Deer in a Cross Hair, Sparrow and the Workshop’s Jill O’Sullivan flits between spoken-word verses and a sung chorus, but any assumptions as to the album’s presiding lyrical tone are immediately challenged by Sanjeev Kholi’s witty rumination I Wonder What Chris De Burgh Is Doing Right Now, which forces a left-turn into a more flippant register.

Evocative musical foundations from Burnett stop these oil-and-water bedfellows from immiscibly clashing, the domestic Svengali fostering a degree of consistency that carries through contributions from Emma Pollock (the brooding A Certain Compulsion) and Calamateur (the drifting Baiting). Appealingly imperfect, this is a curio worth exploring.

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Mina Tindle - Taranta (cover)

Mina Tindle - Taranta (***)

With a stage name adapted from twist-laden, Michael Caine-starring thriller Sleuth, Mina Tindle (born Pauline de Lassus) seems keen to preserve a little mystery on debut Taranta. The singer’s cosmopolitan background – Spanish heritage, French upbringing, a musical awakening in Brooklyn – has cultivated an appealing air of disaffiliation, as she plays with a variety of semblances and freely switches tongues (mostly English, with occasional French and the odd snippet of Spanish).

Naturally, some guises suit better than others: she carries off ‘upbeat indie-popper’ beautifully on To Carry Small Things; ‘melancholic folkie’ a little less so on the Nick Drake-ish Echo, which though pleasant, seems pallid against the more potent emotion exhibited elsewhere. Indeed, inconsistency is Tindle’s only significant foe: she already has both the vocal talent and the compositional wherewithal to nip the heels of express influences like Regina Spektor; now she just needs a steadier identity to channel them.

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Volcano - Pinata (cover) 

Volcano! - Pinata (***)

Instantly appealing on the outside, but with treats at their core: the piñata not only provides a name for Volcano!’s third album, it’s a cracking metaphor for the band’s musical ventures more broadly. The Chicago trio have successfully pushed their sound in two not easily-reconciled directions, sounding both more experimental and more accessibly pop at once.

Unusual syntheses result: take closer Long Gone, the first track to our knowledge to simultaneously recall both Talking Heads and Sisqo’s Thong Song; or St Mary of Nazareth, in which quivering vocals and a crazy cosmic narrative about alien nuns suggest Muse, though with guitars set to ‘afrobeat sway’ instead of ‘turbo Queen.’ Throughout, arrhythmic percussion, busy melodies, and Aaron With’s feverish vocals are consistent signature elements, and if Piñata ultimately lacks the standout track or two needed to elevate it into the major leagues, it’s not for lack of imagination.
 
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