Monday, April 6, 2009

Reviews:: Dark Mean Frankencottage

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It’s no secret I’m a big fan of the Hamilton label, Down by the Point records. The small run label is exactly the type of outfit that we bloggers should be searching out; limited-to-no PR budget, repping the hell out of their local scene and, of course, good bands with different sounds. So when Matt Paxton sent over the new EP from a band he is stoked on Dark Mean, I quickly hit stop on my iTunes and loaded up Frankencottage.

UPDATE - this release is actually on Vibewrangler, the Down by the Point people are just helping it get noticed.

The four-song EP opens with a bang… or more accurately, a stomping kick drum. Happy Banjo builds on the drums with a dancing banjo riff, harmonies, horns, pedal steel and electronics – all of which seem determined to battle the underlying sadness of the vocals. The four-minute song tucks little surprises into every opening and before it’s finished playing for the first time, you are trying to sing along to the words you don’t even know. That energy carries over to the title track, Frankencottage, as the drums, bass line and hand claps set the tone for soaring choruses and some electric noodling. Even with all the layers they experiment with, the sound is concise and crisp and the trio never lets your attention wander.

The second half of the EP might seem more subdued, as Lullabye starts as a tender ballad, but slowly an intensity burns and as the vocals get strained the folky banjo is mixed with drums and heavy strummed acoustic to build a powerful collage of sound. For me though, it’s the understanding of flow that makes this track work. The band takes their foot of the gas with gentle cymbal washes and the ambient folk outro really gives some depth to the quick hitting EP and shows that the band has more than one gear to play with on their upcoming full length.

China again mixes delicate sounds – piano, chimes – with a stomping drum line and warped synths notes. The interesting dichotomy helps Dark Mean, letting them reveal a gentler side to their songs, adding emotion and layers but providing the necessary stomp and energy to keep today's A.D.D. listeners engaged. The trio – each living in a different location – is experimenting with familiar tones, but combining them in new ways with terrific results. I kept wanting to highlight a song with a blanketing statement like, "Frankencottage would be worth your cash for Happy Banjo alone" but the more I listen, the more I am embracing each song on the EP. Oh... and the band is giving it away for free on their web site.

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Posted at 6:44 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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