(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Recording review - And the Giraffe, Creature Collector (2012)

Delicately balanced dreamy folk

Last year, I reviewed And the Giraffe's EP, Something For Someone. I enjoyed their mellow exploration of dreamy folk space; each song created a different mood, finding its own niche. Their latest short-form release, Creature Collector, builds on that nuanced sound with richer production and a stronger contribution from the rhythm section. A perfect example is "Of the Moment", which starts with simple reverbed guitar figure. Robert Edmondson's melodic bass line comes in and adds focus to the quiet reflection. Gossamer shreds of electronic washes are barely perceptible. The breathy lyrics are brief and poetic:
Here I am, trapped in the embers
Of the moment
And the why
Darkness descends with a sharp contrast between prickly bass notes of doom and a rapid, panicked drum beat. This dissipates as the song wakes, driven by an experimental percussion jam. It's a lot to fit into three minutes, but the band effortlessly flows through this evolution.

And the Giraffe continues to evoke Gomez, with vocals reaching for Ben Ottewell's velvet rasp. "Find My Name in the Sun" floats forward, with a weary acceptance:
Does a loving feud have to be something more?
Will the rug muffle our yells?
Will the chipped paint ever dry?
Will the room keep closing in?
The detached vocals suggest a surrender at the loss of a relationship, holding none of the sting these lyrics suggest. The music remains unencumbered and light, despite some ornamentation. A soft banjo, synth washes, and other subtle sounds add detail, but find a delicate balance. The folky feel transitions into a rootless, atmospheric electronic shimmer for the bridge. This heralds a growing complexity, where complacence becomes anticipation, signaling an end to the grieving. Conflicting details layer together, but never feel chaotic because harmony still dominates.

The six songs on Creature Collector all seem to capture some degree of pain in their lyrics, but the music redeems them from any self-absorbed whining. It's hard to be melodramatic when the tunes remain stubbornly low key and perceptive. So, it's less Melanie's "Beautiful Sadness" and more Wilco's "Less Than You Think". In fact, the closing track, "Enough is Enough" seems to channel Jeff Tweedy's halting rhythm in its beginning section. The simple piano is sparse, emphasizing the lines by dropping back rather than dynamic punches. After this intro, the rest of the band comes in, kicking off a "Walk on the Wild Side" groove. Except for a touch of noodling electric piano early in this section, it's a perfect transition. The song closes with a fuller sound; distorted guitar and a saturated mix bury the track in another noisy Wilco touch.

Drop by And the Giraffe's Bandcamp page where you can name your price to download Creature Collector.

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