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If More Than Twenty People Laugh, It Wasn't Funny

If More Than Twenty People Laugh, It Wasn't Funny
(Highpoint Lowlife Records)

Most songs on If More Than Twenty People Laugh, It Wasn't Funny work in a somewhat similar fashion. Usually, a rather pretty acoustic guitar melody comes into play, weaving a soundscape like you're listening to some sort of finger-picked backporch player who really knows how to hook you in. After the guitar has gone on for awhile, almost always a rather head-spinning wall of programmed beats drops, shooting the disc off into a leftfield area that somehow bridges almost classical guitar playing and rhythms and programming so complex that it could have arrived on a recent Autechre album.

To say that it's an odd combination might be a little bit on the forgiving side, but I'd be darned if it doesn't work a majority of the time. The first track that I heard from the release (and the one available as a download on the label website) is "Two Times Two Makes Five Is Such A Charming Concept" is a good example of what you're getting into with the disc. A nice acoustic guitar melody plays out just before crazy beat programming spins the entire track into an alternate universe where folk singers keep strumming along with hyper-glitch beats and majestic keyboard layers.

The album opening track of "A Poem Lights This Way" mixes in piano sounds alongside the acoustic guitar, and next to the stuttering hiccups of rhythm, it provides another layer of humanity to hang onto. In fact, much of the album seems to feel like a grappling match between organic and electronic, as those acoustic guitars simply strum away while sometimes thick and vicious beats attack and then recede, sometimes allowing room for breath and sometimes completely smothering anything string-related. On "Derail In Dream," that very thing happens, with the guitar taking center stage for a couple measures before beats come sliding back to attack and topple, only to find another guitar melody rising to the foreground.

Purists of either folk music or heavy-duty programmed electronic will probably find themselves a bit tested by the disc, and I'll be honest in saying that the tracks that often work the best for me are the ones that venture outside the aforementioned formula the most. "Inefficient Nothing" layers backwards guitars and tiny filings and flints of piano melodies into a swarming cascade that creeps into Fennesz territory while "Conformity To Fact" is a short, noisy number that sounds like what would probably happen if the album flat-out gave control to the machines as both beats and piano are submerged in a layer of feedback and noise before a bit of human touch escapes at the end. At 11 tracks and 55 minutes, the release runs a bit on the long side considering many of the tracks on the release are constructed in similar ways, but there really are some unique things going on within the release, and for that I have to give Dof much credit.

Rating: 6.25