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The Blossom Filled Streets

The Blossom Filled Streets
(Drag City/Domino)

Comprised of former members of Flying Saucer Attack and several other groups, Movietone creates music that would be a perfect soundtrack to a stroll along a boardwalk on a perfectly dreary, fall day. Although the instrumentation is quite lush and cinematic, it also manages to come across as quite minimal, perhaps because of the recording techniques (analogue, baby) or the more acoustic nature of the instrumentation. With acoustic guitar (and a touch of electric), upright bass (a couple different versions), piano, some light drums and stringed instruments, and mellow horns to round out the edges, the group tiptoes sort of a light-jazz edge of things while sharing little bits in common with groups like Pram, Hood, and a slightly more drear Pastels.

Part of that downcast mood lays in the vocals themselves of Rachel Brook. While I've heard reviews accusing her of sounding disinterested or even offkey, to me her intonation works quite well in that most of the time she sounds so breathy and delicate that her voice might just stop at any time, and the withered images that the group conjures up will blow away in the wind.

The album starts out with the track "Hydra" and gives you a good idea of things to come as it starts out with some rather haunting strings before a clarinet plays out weepingly over sort of a light jazz structure. The vocals by Brooks drift throughout and after threatening several times throughout the song with tremelo guitars, the song turns into sort of controlled freakout at the end that reminds one of Spiritualized. After the very short and subdued second track of "Star Ruby," the album continues on with the crackling "1930's Beach House." As guitars send shimmering ripples down the spine of the track, it sort of lopes along with some hollowed-out percussion and light piano. One of the standout tracks on the disc is actually nothing more than piano and vocals. I'm not sure if it's the warm tones that are coaxed out of the piano or the way that it meshes perfectly with the vocals of Brooks, but it's a track that could lullaby me to sleep almost every night.

The album also includes a couple instrumental tracks, and they're quite different in style. "Year Ending" is a longer track that moves in almost a trance-inducing slow pace while adding touches of new instrumentation every couple measures and taking others away. "Seagulls/Bass" is a shorter, more experimental track that's pretty much exactly as it's titled. While a field recording (or perhaps live recording) of seagulls plays, the guttural sounds of some sort of bass being plucked and strummed fall in. "In A Marine Light" follows that track right up with a more playful and structured sound, as a clarinet and piano play off another quite well while an upright bass provides a bit more ground to things.

The album itself is one of those that just pervades in a very subtle way. The nine songs that comprise it evoke sort of the same mood and instead of feeling like an album comprised of different tracks, it feels more like one long song with 9 different movements. While there are a couple moments where the group gets louder, The Blossom Filled Streets is mainly a pretty restrained affair that will make you want to curl up with some hot tea under a blanket and not go outside until it gets warm again.

Rating: 7.5