Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Long Transition

After spending half of June on the road, I've now survived July in suitcases and on loaned mattresses. The long goodbye from Ottawa has an end in sight but it's always just over the horizon. There have been a lot of "but"'s lately. Skeleton Crew Quarterly moves to its new headquarters today but won't have internet for another ten odd days. That's the most recent example.

Still, this lengthy transition of moving cities is coming to a close and I appreciate those of you who have been checking in on the homepage to see what's new. There will be loads of record reviews and emails to catch up on once this unstable summer has ironed out.

Hope you're all well,

~ Love SCQ

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Flumina - Fennesz + Sakamoto


Fennesz + Sakamoto
Touch Records.

SCQ Rating: 83%

Although few names feature as prominently in the realms of textured ambience and classical piano as Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto, respectively, it would be disingenuous to assert that the duo have gotten the proper mileage out of this collaboration. It’s true that their shared work has sustained itself on engaging and atmospheric compositions but Fennesz and Sakamoto have also preserved a submissive approach that critics accuse of condoning the creation of “background music”.

If the sum of these composers’ parts has felt somehow less than their prolific individual halves, Flumina will change no one’s opinion on first approach. These twenty-four tracks, numbered instead of named and spread across two discs, would hang together the same way had you shuffled them blindly and played it through. What Flumina lacks in punch and precision, it makes up for with flow; taken in handfuls or in the full two-hours’ worth, this body of work shapes itself into an ocean of ambience – impossible to navigate and overpowering.

Describing highlights in this case would be a waste for words; each track ruminates on a strict palette of haunting ambient smears and piano that, whether meandering or building, works effectively. Once it has been digested over the course of countless listens, Flumina’s many tracks condense from a uniform and overlong sleeper into something radiant and compositionally eclectic. For those who lack the patience, however, this generous offering from Fennesz and Sakamoto should only cement opinions – namely, that Flumina is nothing more than accumulating mileage.

Tiger Talk - Yukon Blonde

Tiger Talk

Yukon Blonde
Dine Alone Records.

SCQ Rating: 70%

If the giant chorus of “whoa”’s that kick-start “My Girl” don’t fully expose the ambitions behind Tiger Talk, the second track “Radio”, which insists that there’s “nothing on the radio” over a Billy Idol-like percussive thud, should spell it out: Yukon Blonde want it all. To cure the radio’s chronic woes, to tour Canada as a top-tier bar-band -- the sky’s the limit for this axe-wielding trio. And armed with plenty of rock and roll clichés and stylistic shifts, Tiger Talk looks poised to reach that audience so starved for fresh meat.

The hooks are plentiful and breezy, culminating into the sort of album you enjoy hearing blared from a summer cottage but not enough to ask who’s playing. The catchiest track, single “Stairway”, doubles as their smartest too, with a faultless guitar chug and palpable sense of yearning unheard amid Can-Con’s roster since Matt Mays. Other highlights, like the synth-assisted rocker “Six Dead Tigers” and majestic closer “Sweet Dee”, manage to flesh out new dimensions to Yukon Blonde’s pop persona but they’re fleeting when so much of Tiger Talk seeks only to please the masses. And while these ten tracks should succeed in that goal, it’s a timid objective for a band that sounds capable of digging deeper.