Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blanket of Ash - Jatun

Blanket of Ash

Other Electricities Records.

SCQ Rating: 67%

There’s a lovely lack of complication swirling at the heart of ‘Blanket of Ash’, the title track which leads Jatun’s sophomore release. Anchored by a melancholic piano line, the opener finds the duo of Alan Grosvenor and Scott Worley imbedding their elegy with equal doses of digitally-muffled vocals and fuzzy glitches; each managing to heighten the song’s inherent drama. Imagine mixing the bravado of M83 with the bluster of Jesu’s electronic period, and you’re pretty close to the relentless peaks Jatun seeks out. Impressive as that first track sounds, the record seems intent on matching that force (and fuzz) with each subsequent song, ultimately reducing Blanket of Ash’s peaks to a plateau of overstatement.

So while Jatun’s charmingly uncomplicated template can wear thin - take, for example, ‘Circuit Eater’, where you can hardly discern a melody or vocal from the claustrophobic mix – Blanket of Ash still offers some serious silver-lining. ‘Overhead the Air Waves’ not only ushers in on some rare restraint, it builds into an addictive synth progression that, although supplemented by a bunch of auxillery keys, never loses focus on its primary, clear objective. With beats deviating between locked-in synergy and sudden abandon, ‘Overhead The Airwaves’ feels like the record’s customary five-minute length, not eight and a half! Similar longform surprises come from ‘The Thin’, a ten-minute closer that allocates enough room to catch its breathe between bouts of moody drones and tight, rhythmic detonations. In these lengthier pieces, Jatun’s compressed climaxes have the chance to create compositional archways and catch listeners offguard, whereas the duo’s shorter tracks race to a song’s crest and ride it indefinitely. Grosvenor and Worley have mastered a muscled approach to songwriting that aims for the throat and, while it speaks to the noisy over-emotive side of my headphones, their ability to thrill rests on complicating – at least a tiny bit – their powerhouse yet predictable template.

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