Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reviews:: Fall Horsie Devil(e)durge

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Halifax has been pumping out some terrific folk music lately, so naturally when I got the new record from Fall Horsie, I assumed I'd be digesting another collection of warbled goodness. Originally a clever moniker for the solo work of Justin Karas, Fall Horsie has blossomed from the vessel of a folksy song writer into full fledged, orchestral tracks full of brass, beautiful percussion, moody strings and poignant piano. The songs are crafted with meticulous precision, but somehow the songs still feel alive.

But even with all of the accents and support, Justin's voice is still the heart of the songs. More a troubadour than a folk poet, he controls the spotlight and seems to inherently know when to let his voice run and when to pull back and let the instrumentation wash over his thoughts. Devil(e)durge still creaks and bends at times, but it's the colors and panache that the band plays with that makes the songs stand out.

Justin's playful look at the dreams that help us fly or cower in fear uses intricate, well thought out arrangements to strengthen his emotions. Hornets and Bees is less of a song than a full theatrical production, complete with piano, strings, tempo changes, and orchestral support. And to be honest, if a young nymph tiptoed across stage during this song, it would not seem out of place. Cloudy Eyes Over Arid Face builds slowly before exploding into a climatic finish. The gentle cymbal washes, quick stabbing strings and well placed triangle all make it impossible to lose focus on the sounds, even as they dart in and out of each speaker.

A less engaging performer would fall short with this daunting task, but Justin's presence is strong enough to uplift even his simplest songs. Whether it's the gentle picked A Stone - a track that places the spotlight squarely on his vocals - or the catchy The Devil Took The Shape Of A Dog, the stripped down instrumentation works perfectly and offers a brief reprieve from the bombardment of layers.

The record is not a light listen; whimsical and airy at times yes – like the rag time feel of Horses on the Boulevard - but for every carefree moment, Justin challenges the listener with swirling, dark ballads like The Devil's Winter Bones. It's as unpredictable as the thoughts the take over your subconscious when you sleep. Fall Horsie is able to create tension with only a stomped percussion (Water and Bridges), scare you with a chilling tone or make you smile like a childhood memory. Fall Horsie is also a name people in Halifax should get used to hearing.

Posted at 3:16 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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