Monday, October 26, 2009

A Brief Affair of Limping and Gathering of Clipped Wings - Kram Ran

A Brief Affair of Limping and Gathering of Clipped Wings

Kram Ran
IT3 Records.

SCQ Rating: 68%

Due to a last-minute venue switch, I closely followed several message boards - each clamoring to make sense of a chaotic situation – to find out directions, door-times, ticket prices and whether this Former Ghosts show was really going to happen. When I checked for an update moments before leaving, I read that Kram Ran had volunteered to play an impromptu acoustic set to open the evening. I’d never heard of Kram Ran before and I wasn’t alone; standing between strangers during his gig, I could tell by the glances of shy hipsters, the body language of those shifting weight in the front, that most people didn’t know what to make of this guy. As he warbled and wailed and attacked his guitar with offbeat slaps, I realized that these onlookers weren’t bored or purposefully being passive-aggressive… they were slightly uncomfortable. Kram Ran's performance was so insular and moody, its intensity made people awkward. Now there's a power that shouldn't be undersold.

A Brief Affair of Limping and Gathering of Clipped Wings, released in August of this year, does an adequate job of capturing Mark Wohlgemuth’s off-kilter antics while presenting a powerful songwriter at work. Combining these disparaging sides of Kram Ran – the goofy and the gorgeous – is a give and take, as they often show up in the same song. Despite the layered drones and tape recordings that commence ‘A Death & Kill’ in a far-off haze, the opener is suddenly diluted to a plucky piano repetition, where Kram Ran’s vocals first reveal themselves like Alec Ounsworth if the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah vocalist was impersonating an elderly woman. It should be noted at this stage that those aren’t his natural vocals so much as one of many left-field WTFs chosen to either sidetrack or sabotage his efforts. ‘To Dance With You Dear Dread’ is a better representative of his distorted wail; unhinged, gloriously off-key, and lost in that song’s squall of harsh dissonance that winds down to some beautiful, sparse keys. Kram Ran’s duality is again hurdled on ‘Limping Through the Snows of Kilimanjaro’, where Wohlgemuth’s stream-of-conscious curses over crunchy beats and coked-out synths are slowed to a glacial pace of haunting beauty.

The second, less abrasive half of A Brief Affair… finds Kram Ran settling into subtle electronic compositions and resigned vocals that better showcase his focus, as if the earlier panic attacks have given way to an exhaust but clear afterglow. With dripping and tapping percussion, ‘The Trial’ arches into a melodramatic climax whereby the lyric’s ticking clocks and split bodies are explained through the violence of gauzy synths and ravenous vocals. It’s the last outburst on A Brief Affair…, leaving closer ‘Kill Then Give’ to present Kram Ran’s best focus yet. Matching vaguely IDM-inspired loops to lilting acoustics and restrained vocals, ‘Kill Then Give’ creates a landscape of its slowly shaping melancholy, wandering sparse valleys and distorted peaks to a contemplative close. Wohlgemuth may have played this track live - it’s hard to be sure - but the highlights on A Brief Affair of Limping and Gathering of Clipped Wings suggest a potent artist for Canada’s New Weird, building genre-mashed narratives with a fatalistic flair.

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