Monday 22 October 2012

Slumberwood - Anguane

Album review by KevW

Are Slumberwood a band suffering from an identity crisis, or is it just that between them they have many heroes and elements of each of these filters its way down through their music? Having been all professional and done our research, we've found that their influences include legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog, powerpop pioneers Big Star and black metal. You'd think it would be something of a challenge to represent such an eclectic range on one record without making a complete pig's ear of things. This experimental bunch from northern Italy have been here before though, with acclaimed debut album 'Yawling Night Songs'. It's taken them a few years to follow that up, but listening to this heady and carefully concocted brew it's not hard to see why.

'Anguane' may leave a few people scratching their heads at first, although a few songs, including the psych-pop of 'Everything Is Smiling' and, once it gets going, the bleak '7th Moon Of Mars' are more immediate. The puntasticly titled 'Emerson Laura Palmer' shows both a sense of humour and a nod towards prog-rock, indeed much of the album could be considered a modernisation of one of rock's less celebrated periods. The song itself is prog sent into hypredrive with squalling organ, urgently chanted vocals and a thumping beat; it's very dark in tone and almost feels like the soundtrack to a scene of witchcraft. In fact much of this album feels cinematic; Slumberwood don't really write songs in the conventional sense. These are more like pieces of music, but don't let that put you off, it's a highly listenable record, if not necessarily the most immediately rewarding.

Various moods are created on this album, from the excellent and experimental alt-rock of 'Help Me Grampa' to fragile and slow-building 'La Corsa del Lupo', or the moody and frightening 'Sargasso Sea'. Unsettling could be the default setting for much of this album; 'Mr Sandman' doesn't bring sweet dreams, he comes equipped with a wide array of nightmares instead. The atmospheric hum of 'Harmonium' is straight from the score to a horror film; there's a definite preoccupation with the dark side. Whether it's the accident of such a wide variety of influences or willful eclecticism, 'Anguane' contains a little something for everyone, whether that be instant pop thrills, experimental rock or neo-classical exploration, Slumberwood can turn their hand to pretty much anything, as long as it's a little shady in nature that is.

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