wears the trousers magazine

sounding off: october 2009 (iv)

In the final part of this month’s roundup, we take a look at Canadian trio Magneta Lane’s latest album, the intriguing return of Swedish duo Midaircondo and the murky, droning new release from America’s To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie.

* * *


Magneta Lane
Gambling With God •••
Last Gang

Three years on from their debut full-length, Torontonian power-pop trio Magneta Lane return with their risky-sounding second album Gambling With God, only to show that they have taken no such chances with the actual music. Exhibiting little in the way of artistic growth from 2006’s Dancing With Daggers, these 10 tracks suffer a similar fate to that album in that they simply don’t possess enough variety. Singer/guitarist Lexi Valentine, bassist French and drummer Nadia King have stuck fairly rigidly to the pop-noir formula that has served them moderately well in the past, with only a few glimpses of something different.

When they do attempt a broader palette, such as on the standout track ‘Violet’s Constellations’, they prove they can rival the emotive alt-rock heights of Nicole Atkins, but generally Valentine’s vocals come across as too deadpan and dry (see ‘Castles’, ‘All The Red Feelings’) to really give the songs the depth of feeling that would really elevate them into something special. The use of an acoustic guitar for ‘September Came’ is a nice touch, providing the album with a welcome centrepiece interlude, but again the song would benefit from a more expressive singer. So while the previously unconverted might long for a more forceful shake of the dice, it’s safe to say that existing fans will find Gambling With God a satisfying ride around the roulette wheel.

Claire Robinson
Available on import only; www.myspace.com/magnetalane


Curtain Call ••••
Twin Seed

Four years on from their acclaimed debut Shopping For Images, alternative Swedish duo Midaircondo are back with new album Curtain Call, released under their own label Twin Seed Recordings. Musically speaking, the album follows similar trends to its predecessor, masterfully mixing a variety of contradictory genres with unusual instruments, laidback synths and poetic vocals. The difference between the albums, however, lies in the overall sound; while Shopping For Images was predominantly dreamy, ambient and somewhat relaxed, Curtain Call has a more advanced flavour, with a focus on creating a palpable atmospheric tension.

Tracks in evidence of this are ‘Come With Me’, which stamps out an industrial beat with detached and distorted poetry and violent blasts of saxophone, and ‘Revolve & Repeat’, which is equally mechanical and littered with a flurry of echoed vocals and cries. These opaque tracks stand out starkly against softer inclusions such as ‘Stay’ and ‘Venetian Veil’ which rely on smooth jazz pieces, delicate bell sounds and precious vocals to create a soft but icy Scandinavian ecology. Like a mysterious and exciting voyage across a foreign land, the album as a whole gives the sense of a complex story being related to the listener through rich sounds and electric atmospheres, and should not be missed.

Mark Goldby
UK release date: 12/10/09; www.myspace.com/midaircondo


To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie
Marlone ••½

Marlone is the second album from American electronica outfit To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie, following up their 2007 release Patron on the reliably eccentric Kranky Records. Having been surrounded by a revolving cast of musicians for the past four years, sound manipulist Mark McGee and singer/guitarist Jehna Wilhelm take this opportunity to envelop themselves with dark noise and troubled sounds, creating a very insular listening experience. Given that the album represents a collection of songs that were written on tour and during live performances, it’s surprisingly calm. The songs are slow and eerie with soft vocal layers protruding through the gloomy surface, and most exceed the 15 minute marker.

Laid down at the Sound Gallery in Minneapolis, the recordings are full of reverb, droned out sounds and distorted, snail-paced guitar, with only one or two compositions (see album standout ‘In People’s Homes’) allowing any sort of gusto shine through. Wilhelm’s husky vocals add much to the atmosphere, though a wayward sense of tunefulness can sometimes make her tough to appreciate. Definitely on the experimental side of drone, and that’s surely no mean feat, To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie do not shy away from the unconventional and exploratory side of the human soul. Not recommended for those who like to stay safely within the pop stratosphere, but if you care to experience an oppressive sound adventure then let Marlone be your guide.

Anja McCloskey
UK release date: 21/09/09; www.myspace.com/tokillapettybourgeoisie


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