Nov 27, 2012 Issue #43 - Animal Collective
Soft Fall sounds expensive. And that's a good thing. It's a luxurious album full of synths, samples, and strings with voluptuous curves and crushed velvet soundscapes. It expands logically on the sturdy foundation laid by Sun Airway's often overlooked 2010 debut, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier.
Frontman Jon Barthmus was inspired by such diverse sources as footnote-friendly Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace, Japanese mega-pop artist Takashi Murakami's opulent installations at the palace of Versailles, and André Breton and Philippe Soupault's stream of consciousness collaborative work "The Magnetic Fields." For many listeners that list of names might point toward a pretentious sensory overload, especially since these songs are adorned with so many sparkling segments. But miraculously, they manage to avoid toppling over on themselves, due to support from three instrumental pieces: "Activity 1-3," whose tasteful cinematic touches buttress much of the material. Each of these tracks provides a palate-cleansing break that gives the entire collection of recordings a deliberately-paced dramatic structure. The string arrangements from Joshua Stamper hint at classical underpinnings, but never come across as gimmicky or tacked on. Most importantly, there are some plain and simple jams, such as the radio-ready "Black Noise," the gently driving title track, and the highly danceable lead single, "Close," all three of which are sure to please people who are coming back to this act looking for catchier stuff along the lines of "American West" or "Put the Days Away."
Perhaps the most exciting element of Soft Fall is its live performance potential. Presented correctly, this album could give concertgoers a specifically formal experience, more similar to seeing musicians in a concert hall than in a nightclub. In any case, here's hoping the tour to support this release will provide this young act with more of the success they definitely deserve. (www.sunairway.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10