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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CD review - Sagan Lane, Funambule (2011)

Sagan Lane pushes duo into duality on a host of levels. On Funambule, Marley Butler and Sarah Bilodeau stretch their tightrope across the chasm between electronic and acoustic, looped structure and ambient accent, and sweet folk ballad and electronic beat. Like most strong art, Sagan Lane is more interested in presentation than resolution. Listeners can decide for themselves which elements are ascendent.

Throughout Funambule, Bilodeau's voice is chameleon like, taking on the appropriate color for each piece, from Margo Timmons (Cowboy Junkies) to Suzanne Vega to Liz Phair. This flexibility gives the songs room to come into their own space. Similarly, the electronic sounds offer their own mix of moderate beats and ethereal shimmers.

The well named opener, Trip Under the Entrance, is an experimental piece that is dissociatively dreamy. When I was in school, we sat through anti-drug propaganda that tried to present the sensory disorientation of being high. Like their version of an acid trip, Trip Under the Entrance, has swells of sound, twitchy, punctuated beats, and lurches of incomprehensible vocals. This loopy, backmasked start forces the listener into the same choice of how to interpret all that follows and how pleasurable the experience will be.

The following track, Mikodeau, provides a balm to the first track. The soothing indie folk emphasizes the folk side with added mild, electronic texture. Halfway though, the song transitions more fully to the indie side, with a stripped down Liz Phair kind of vulnerable honesty.

The rest of the album proves just as eclectic. Transcience contrasts an electro pop beat with stately strings and a Suzanne Vega vocal. Another lengthy track, Script, holds long vocal tones over a tight punchy melodic loop. Despite erecting a set of looped elements, the overall sound is sparse. The end opens up into a lushly vocalized, ethereal sound that exaggerates the sonic space of the piece. Isolated Opposites pairs a laid back electro beat with a moody track. The beat balances the snaky bassline and the sway of the hypnotic vocal.

Funambule offers a set of choices. Which aspects of Sagan Lane's sound will appeal or repel? Which songs offer the deepest meanings? The album lays it out before you...sip on a tart, strong margarita while you ponder.

But remember, not deciding is itself a decision.

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