Monday, December 22, 2008

Quick hitters:: Language-Arts

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If you told me I was going to sit down with a high-pitched, female, indie /rap hybrid vocalist backed by classically trained musicians and that I would be engaged in the results, well I’d be quite willing to call your bluff. That combination has more potential for bad news than Puffy’s idea to become the new black James Bond. All too often when talented musicians – and there is no doubt the members of Language-Arts are talented – try something outside of the box, the results fall short of the vision.

But when the Halifax/Vancouver quartet start to play, you get sucked into the sounds. Musically, the preview EP – Small Run - uses nice double bass lines, keys, acoustic guitar and hip hop influenced drums and the textures they create change shape in interesting ways to support Kristen Cudmor’s vocals. The guitar notes that dance around the groove on the stand out track, Tuck It In, could have dominated the mix, but the restraint Cudmore uses helps shine the spotlight on Gregor Phillips and Michael Finn's beat. The flourishes of keys Karma Sohn adds thicken up the sound and give the gritty track a more organic feel. Each member of the band know the role and is happy to stay within those boundaries.

I guess it’s not surprising classically trained musicians with a love of jazz can find the beat and run with it, but the vocals are the big surprise for me. Cudmore has that Anticon, speak/sing rap technique well in hand, but she wisely avoids the potential for disaster by using her childlike lyrics as just another element of the song, not the star. You can listen to the song and treat her voice as another instrument – one that moves quickly and never strays off beat – or you can focus in on her words that flow more like a stream of consciousness than a penned verse. Her vocals are versatile, as she bends and twists into the spaces left free on a folk track (White Socks in Birkenstocks) or spits out a staccato delivery on a more straight ahead jazz-indie songs like Boxed In.

I hate to try to pigeon hole the band with some forced sounds like attempt, but Language-Arts would be a perfect addition to a bill with another Vancouver based outfit – Brasstronaut – or any of the tons of backpackers that dwell in the city for some amazing collabos. But at the end of the day the music has to speak for itself and if you give Language-Arts a chance, you will be surprised by how well the Vancouverites pull off this creative blend of sounds.

Posted at 7:54 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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