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  Finish Raw Edges First  
  Crane Orchard  
Release Date:
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Crane Orchard is a band from the ever-growing Birmingham, AL music scene. In fact, Nick Punch, the guitarist and programmer of Crane Orchard, also fills those same musical roles in Audomobil?, another Birmingham band who have been favorably reviewed here on EvilSponge. Given the generally high quality of this release, it seems as if Birmingham, AL has a good bit to offer, musically speaking.

This album is grounded in the vocals of Paul Fugazzotto. His voice reminds me, slightly, of Jeff Tweedy, or that guy from Grandaddy, or Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. It has a hint of a drawl, sounds like it will deepen nicely with age and smoke, and kind of drones through a light, back of the throat vibrato.

The music backing up Mr. Fugazotto is, well, different. Some of the tunes are almost folk-rock, consisting mostly of acoustic guitar. Occasionally computerized noises come in, and things sound, well, like a weird fusion of laptoptronica and Surprisingly, it works rather well.

Bitter starts the EP off with a twangy guitar strummed at a lethargic pace. Fugazotto's accent shows through here, and the song moves along contentedly in a vaguely Wilco-ish manner.

The second tune, Hallways, starts with the same general vocals, albeit somewhat more nasally here, and then suddenly it explodes into a great rock song. A simple drumbeat drives it along, accompanied by a nice bass riff, and strange little keyboard noodling. Tons of overdrive fuzz the song out for choruses, and, on the whole, this works really well.

Hallways is followed by Beece Pancake, which is really glitchy, like an Appalachian folk song remixed by Autechre. There are both folksy elements and laptopped noises here and there. In all honestly, i think this is my least favorite tune on the EP. It sounds too consciously busy, as if the band had a simple folk tune, and decided to spice it up by adding in electro noises. These sounds distract from the overall song, rather than add to it. But it's just this one song that seems that way. I wonder if this was the first "laptopped" song that Crane Orchard did?

And that ends the first half of the EP, which sounds almost folky, despite the afore-mentioned electronic additions. The last half of the EP is a different beast entirely. Here, the electronic noises are merged into the songs flawlessly, and the overall tone is more psychedelic than country-folk. We have left the realm of Wilco and entered that of The Flaming Lips. This sound really works for Crane Orchard, although i must admit that anyone who doesn't like The Flaming Lips probably won't care for this final trio of songs.

The first tune of this trio, Please Forgive Me, is a simple poppy tune of strange electro beats and fuzzed out guitar. Pleasant enough.

The next tune is called Dirty and it succeeds in merging electronica with that big, quirky rock sound that The Flaming Lips are known for. The funky little electro blurts really work in this song.

Hold the Light follows, and is even better than the track that came before it. The drum machine stutters like it is having an epileptic fit. One guitar grinds through some overdrive, while this other is acoustic and light. A really nice combination.

So Finish Raw Edges First ends on a very positive note, and i must admit that it shows a lot of potential. After i wrote up my notes on the songs in the preceding paragraphs it occurred to me that the music gets more complete as the EP progresses. That is, the first songs are kind of raw, then they grow experimentally until the experimentalism overwhelms songcraft on Breece Pancake. However, the next three songs combine the previous experimental elements into a catchy whole that really works. Which makes me wonder if the six tunes presented here are simply the first six Crane Orchard tunes, in order of creation. A real growth is shown in the progression of the music, so that would make a certain degree of sense...

At any rate, i think that Crane Orchard have potential. There is some interesting stuff going on here, and i am curious to see where they go next. I am also curious to see when they are going to make the 3 hour trek over here to Atlanta and play....

Related Links:

Crane Orchard's webiste, from which you can download MP3's, or purchase the album. Be warned -- there is a fatal JavaScript error on the top banner menu, and if you have "debug mode" turned on in your browser you will be unable to navigate.... Still, it's not as annoying as one of those unnavigable, too-artsy Flash websites!


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