Wednesday, June 24, 2009

II - Lindstrom & Prins Thomas


Lindstrom & Prins Thomas
Eskimo Records.

SCQ Rating: 76%

I find a good window seat and sit down. With the first patient bass notes of ‘Cisco’, my train had inched out of Danforth Station, building its heavy load toward a comfortable pace. A variety of synths are introduced – some staccato notes peppered for melody, others swelling out as sympathetic guides – which all suggest a remote South American locale; their exotic vibes caught in the endless thicket of trees and shrubbery. By the time ‘Cisco’ jumps out of the gate like a tye-dyed meltdown, my view is a lush blur of passing foliage as I travel, faceless passenger, through a living mosaic. The percussion steadies to a march, as a lone xylophone, then call-and-answer synths explore this newly uncluttered sonic terrain. As my window-view of brush is cleared by the gray landscapes of East End community-housing, these percolating synths evoke their own urban shadows, arching unsettled 80s tones that loiter among these passing graffiti walls and abandoned utopian ideals. ‘Rothaus’, in its essence, is that of feeling trapped inside one of Roger Water’s lost explorations from The Wall. Pulling out of Union Station and catching momentum along flat train-yards, ‘For Ett Slikk Og Ingenting’ comes off like a victory song. Flaunting bold yet ill-advised piano chords that sound uncovered from an old cult flick, a sense of achievement showers this track with all the twinkle and swagger of a credit-roll. As if these vulgar store-sized advertisements I pass will soon be lost memories, that my concrete jungle might one day be reclaimed by the vines of time. Yet this relaxed samba beat, these pronounced keys and sleepwalking bass are too aligned; their relief too apparent. This is no cruise into the sunset but merely a standstill.

By the time we’ve reached the tunnel’s bright end leading to Mimico Station, a light rain has become a downpour. Those industrial plains are now suburbanized; parking is free and abundant, attire is less fashion-conscious. And like my man-made bullet pushes against gravity for new surroundings, ‘Rett Pa’ belongs in an entirely different listening-sphere; its kraut-rock testosterone grinding along the borders of a sweltering commotion. As accomplished with previous tracks, Lindstrom and Prins Thomas craft a loving throwback to the Double-Dragons era, replete with 80s videogame sound-alike loops and some authentic space-disco funk. Yet ‘Rett Pa’ doesn’t impress like its previous peers do, largely because it’s boasting the same talents but on the coattails of earlier tracks. Just when I begin to zone out, heavenly synths bring a strange solace over my afternoon train. As it pulls into Long Branch and unloads some human cargo, I can feel the tropicalia-dipped sepia of ‘Skal Vi Prove Na?’ warm me back into a steady groove. Hydro-fields and low-rent housing, both immune to renovation, pass amid the rain-soaked greenery as well-placed cymbals give way to a slightly haunted passage; the exotic steel-drum and unflinching bassline remain intact but those initial synths, dewy and sweet, push back into the mix. If at first with only a sterile note, these synths eventually unleash its full army, bringing this centerpiece to awe-inspiring completion. An xylophone loop leads, unexpectedly, into acoustic guitar - then, an electric! – strumming and pulsing respectively over a bed of warm synths. Such are the chilled-out beginnings of ‘Gudene Vet + Snutt’, a rare track content enough to expend its energies circling the same mood and tempo. Clarkson Station is better off forgotten, an alley twisting between construction machinery and wild twigs. A bird lies facedown in the track-side gravel; I look to the sky. After its camp-fire fuzz morphs into a brief tease of unadulterated space disco, ‘Note I Love You + 100’ opens with a dose of late-night jam band. The Lounge swagger of piano and easy-rock percussion eventually locks into rhythm, with sorrowful guitars bleeding into the keyboard choir, and while the whole affair takes an ungodly eleven-plus minutes, I can admit that it incorporates enough subtle shifts as to ignore the big-box avenues of Oakville, the endless strategizing of finely-manicured lawns that define it and foreshadow my Burlington stop.

When the pastoral, acoustic-picked lament of ‘Flue Pa Veggen’ surfaces, I believe I’ve found a true victory song, the one hinted at several songs ago. Yet at this point, unsurprisingly, it turns to whirling electronics and instead of showcasing a quiet swansong to this impressive song-cycle, opts to play antagonist. After endlessly layering over itself, with songs growing organically into one another like weeds left to their own devices, II closes with a track that exercises order over liveliness, expertly-timed machines over swampy flourishes. It’s a last left-turn for an album so deviously well-made that it sounds closer to prog-rock than electronica, and despite keeping one headphone out to hear my stop announced, II kept my attention. So now I’m stranded, having misheard the call for Bronte Station as my Burlington stop and wandered out into an unknown town. The odd cricket and seagull call out, accompanied by the last roof-water spilling from Platform 8 into a puddle. I see a payphone on the other side of the tracks and sit down.

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