Wednesday, 1 August 2012

reviews: why?, the crooked fiddle band, urusen

Why? - Sod in the Seed EP (****)

While still keen on Eskimo Snow’s more sedate direction, it’s a thrill to hear Why?’s Yoni Wolf in full flow for Sod in the Seed’s title track. Their first new material in almost three years, it’s a vibrant showcase for his sharp wordplay, so verbosely enmeshed that it’s impossible to quote from without spoiling the effect.

Musically, the trio continue to eschew conventions, pioneering some peculiar but rewarding genre syntheses across the EP’s tight duration: For Someone is a woozy blend of xylophone, recorder and bongos; Probable Cause a minute of calypso presets; Shag Carpet a sort of liturgical hip-hop, and so on. A superb return that’s both familiar and exotic, the only real complaint is that a full album remains months away.

Out 13th August

The Crooked Fiddle Band - Overgrown Tales (****)

With titles inspired by sixteenth century serial killers, Coppélia and Tolkien, The Crooked Fiddle Band stay true to their third album’s title, tapping into a rich storytelling seam despite the largely instrumental nature of their music. Recorded last year with Steve Albini, Overgrown Tales sounds global and timeless, its roll call of instruments (including tapan, bouzouki and nyckelharpa) indicating the scope of their influences.

Albini’s characteristically hands-off anti-production initially seems an ill-fit for such nuanced music, but as exhaustingly-paced tracks like All These Pitchforks Make Me Nervous tumble from the speakers, the match makes sense: to apply a greater degree of studio sheen would muffle one of their most pronounced qualities, namely their frenetic dynamism. This is comfortably the Sydney quartet’s most ambitious release to date, with the relentless fiddle riffs of The Mountain Hag’s Advice sitting closer to heavy metal than folk, and What the Thunder Said delivering an appropriately epic finale.

Out 6th August

Urusen - This is Where We Meet (***)

Urusen have been gigging and recording for almost a decade now, never quite catching a wave of support big enough to bring them widespread recognition, but cultivating a reputation for likeable, robust folk-pop fayre regardless. Consistency isn’t a particularly sexy quality in bands, but the slow-road taken to …Where We Meet has its benefits, imbuing their songwriting with an appealing integrity.

There’s a refreshing lack of pretence to tracks like upbeat lead single In Search of the Delta, or the gently lilting Fifty & 9, which together represent the twin poles of Urusen’s sound – not particularly diverse, but nicely complimentary. Peter Bleatty’s lyrics are another tick in the right column, his storytelling offering just the right amount of mystery. But the same qualities that make their music easy to appreciate also ultimately hinders their route to something greater – settling on pleasant, and so falling shy of a record with a more lasting impact.

Out 13th August 

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