Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reviews:: Plants & Animals With/Avec

There isn't much to say about these guys that hasn't been expressed by Matthew over @ IHeartMusic. I could just point you over there, but I also am quite smitten by this band so I am going to share my two pennies.

Twenty-five minutes, four songs that somehow feels like eight is all it took for this band to get the Canadian music scene tingling. There are a few good reasons. First, they are on a label that could probably help Gargamel turn Smurfs to gold. Secondly (and more importantly), they are refreshingly unique. The band breaks all the rules of becoming a media darling. I mean who comes out of the gate with eight minute songs and not a commercial hook to be found? But make no mistake, the attention they are getting is well deserved.

The With/Avec EP is a mix of styles that shouldn't go together so well. Huge booming sound scapes, folky undertones with frequent visits into psychedelic textures, and a gravitation towards jamming. Ambition is great, but often new bands suffer from delusions of grandeur and fail to deliver their vision. A lesser band trying to combine these elements would probably fall flat, but after hearing this EP it's obvious that Plants & Animals has the versatility to dabble in all of those styles.

The opening number - Lola Who? - starts with a nice acoustic and Spicer's warbling vocals, but the song quickly picks up and surges forward. The energy keeps rising as the band explores the simple riff. The song peaks and bottoms out nicely, but you never feel the transitions are simply an excuse for another pointless jam session.

Trials and Tribulations starts as a psychedelic folk song, but gradually evolves into a more straight forward, 90's rock number. Normally, I'd be getting antsy - read pissed off - with the schizophrenic song writing, but the band transitions so effortlessly that it's hard to feel disjointed.

Faerie Dance starts on another path - a more organic ear pleaser, with great harmonies and a Thrill Jockey back beat - but the you spend the whole time wondering where the song will go next. The track builds slowly and the anticipation is palpable, but instead of peaking, the band slows the tempo and hits you with a cymbal crashing breakdown and a great cello part, teasing the listener. I love that they avoid the easy crescendos - opting for a more sophisticated approach.

The most challenging and risky track is the 8-minute closer. Starting as a loose jam, the band meanders around the track, refusing to settle into any structure and using hand claps and tribal percussion. It's like they are challenging you to keep listening, but again surprisingly, they succeed. On the surface it's one of those songs you'd have loved in college, when drug filled nights made the notes dance, but it's more than that. It keeps expanding and as they build and build into their take on Nina, you are left exhausted and completely satisfied. I don't know too many EPs that can fit that description.

It's funny, but as we reach the time in the year when the Class of '07 lists come out, I've been trying to figure out where Plants & Animals land. I don't think I can let this EP leapfrog over some others on the Best-of list, but Plants & Animals has the most likely to succeed vote locked up.
MP3:: Faerie Dance

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Posted at 5:42 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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