Radiant Darling - Cryptomnesia
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Radiant Darling

Ami Saraiya of Radiant Darling has one of those voices that gives you a bit of pause when you first hear it because it seems that so few vocalists truly have that special something that can turn heads on their own. Musically, the group plows their way through everything from eastern-tinged atmospheric chamber pop to jazz and even a dash of Americana, but it's those vocals that truly take it up and over to the next level, making good songs great ones and interesting ones outstanding.

Originally only a duo of Saraiya and Scott Blackburn (guitars and programming), the group expanded to a foursome (as well as other guest appearances from some friends) for Cryptomnesia and now includes multi-instrumentalist Casey Meehan and violinist Savoir Faire. The disc opens with the soft swagger of "The Outcome," and Saraiya belts out a country inspired track backed by brushed drums, subtle bass and acoustic guitar. After the slightly more atmospheric "Familiar," the group really hits their stride with the vibrant "Marmalade," which clicks along with speedy percussive work and horns that give it a soulfull southwestern flavor.

"The Otherside" finds the group touching on acid jazz as traditional instrumentation and vocals gives way to moments of shimmering atmospherics and filtered vocals. The track veers back and forth between almost old time scat jazz and electronic-touched psychedelic stuff fairly deftly, adding another nice layer to the album. They even drop a twisted circus organ freakout with the bizarre "For Mary," as Saraiya sings and howls over instrumentation that sounds like a close cousin to what Tom Waits gruffs over.

Not all of the experiments from the group click on all cylinders, and while "Versadh" starts out with some great eastern Indian-inspired instrumentation and backing vocals, the song never quite pulls together all the different elements. The group is quite good at what they do, and while some of the programming and processing sounds good and adds to songs, sometimes it does sound somewhat out-of-place given the already developed songs. The subtle effects on a track like "Tears" (where elements sometimes start going in reverse) add much more to the release than more obvious vocal filters and other odd inclusions. The gist of Cryptomnesia is that in nine minutes and just under forty minutes you get a couple torch songs, a couple foot stompers, and several genre-benders that all showcase a great little band with a unique and outstanding female singer.

rating: 710
Aaron Coleman 2006-01-26 21:11:12