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  Dadaphonic (self-released)  
Release Date:

6.October.2008 (EU release); 17.February.2009 (US release)

Reviewed by:

I have a sort of love-hate relationship with The Cranes. I have many of their CDs, and I think that the instrumentation, courtesy of Jim Shaw, is of the highest caliber. He is brilliant, and the music of The Cranes ebbs and flows in delicate waves. It is catchy and invigorating music of the highest caliber, and very interesting.

The band is held back by the vocals. Mr. Shaw works with his sister Alison, and her voice takes some getting used to. You see, Ms. Shaw sings in an ultra-high pitched voice in a manner that can only be described as emulating a "cute little girl". She sounds like a six year old kid, complete with a hint of a lisp. This type of vocalization is very trendy (see also: Lykke Li, Regina Spektor, Joanna Newsome, et al.), but to be honest, it kind of annoys me. I really think that if Ms. Shaw sang like an adult i would be talking more about this band. As it is, i have to recommend with a big flagged exception, because a lot of people are put off by the voice.

That said, this is ninth release from the band, so they must be doing something right. At this point, Cranes are self-releasing their own material on their Dadaphonic label. Cranes has been out for a while in Europe, but just became available in the USA.

To be honest, i think this is my favorite Cranes release to date. Honest. Jim Shaw is crafting elaborate mellow tunes out of layers of electronics, subtle percussion, and his sister's voice. There is a lot of depth to the songs here, a depth that you rarely see in music. The overall mood of the album is mellow, and i think that plays to their respective strengths. Cranes are at their best creating deep, introspective songs.

Consider, as an example, the wonderful song sweep that begins with Panorama. Ms. Shaw is singing in French, a language which seems to make her voice a little huskier. Mr. Shaw pairs the French vocals with a dominant keyboard riff and a head bopping drum beat. This is promptly followed by Wonderful Things, a simple song consisting of two layers of guitar -- one picked, one strummed -- and Alison singing. Her little girl voice combines well with the guitarwork. This is a lovely minimal tune. The minimalism carries to the next song, Collecting Stones. Here instead of guitars we have two keyboard parts --one staccato hits, and one an echoing organ. Alison's voice works well with this combination as well. I guess these minimal tunes play to her strengths. And this flows right into Invisible, a song that should be a pop hit. Alison sings forcefully here, which strains her little girl voice, but she has to struggle to keep up with the many layers of this song. There is a wavering electronic tone, a staccato organ, a thudding drum machine beat, some random laptoptronic types of sounds, and more. But it all merges together into something that has a head nodding beat and flows remarkably well. A great tune.

So they work well with the less minimal tunes. Consider also Sleepwalking. which is a mess of electronics, tinkling and echoing instrumentally, with the barest hint of voices lost in the echo. Or Move Along, which starts with a bare keyboard melody and Alison singing, then suddenly explodes with jazzy drumming, strong keys, and some nice guitarwork. The music almost, but not quite, buries the voice. A wonderful balance, and another great tune.

But there are no weak tunes here. I am impressed at the consistency of the album. Sure, the songs vary greatly in composition and sonic depth, but some quality work went in to these. The production values are very high, and it helps make the record listenable.

This is another fine album from Cranes. I know that the vocals will lose some potential listeners, but if you give it some patience, you will see that the band is doing some really interesting things. They might be one of the most interesting acts out there. There certainly isn't anyone else like them. And you have to respect that.

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Also on EvilSponge:
    Album: Future Songs


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