Tunng | Comments of the Inner Chorus (Full Time Hobby)

cd_tunngIt takes a certain creative willfulness to not only sustain the unusual sound palette here, but to make the resulting compositions melodically fresh and emotionally satisfying.

 

 

 

 

I'm not sure how most listeners discover bands like Tunng. The British folktronica ensemble is too eclectic for radio, and probably only the most esoteric music magazines would have much to say about the band. But this group deserves recognition for its savvy integration of several opposing strains of music: old-style English folk, twitchy electronica (which freely uses snatches of spoken dialogue), and vocal-centric indie pop. It takes a certain creative willfulness to not only sustain the unusual sound palette here, but to make the resulting compositions melodically fresh and emotionally satisfying.

Comments of the Inner Chorus is Tunng's second release, and it finds them expanding their lineup while keeping the focus on concocting bracingly inventive tracks that utilize gorgeous acoustic guitar picking (special kudos to Ashley Bates for fine Spanish guitar), banjo (Bates again, using the banjo as a trademark flavor more than a lead instrument), melodica, cello, and an atypical array of percussive devices (Martin Smith's credit on the sleeve reads "beads, reeds, bells, shells, bones, stones"). Listen carefully and you can probably pick out every one of those in the mix.

Although quirky little sounds abound, what stands out when you dig into this album is the combination of the clean, vibrant acoustic guitar and the soothing, cottony-soft vocals, most of which are by Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders. The blend is just right here, with occasional female vocals adding another flavor. Honestly, this music results in a feel not unlike downing a fabulous tropical drink at port side—care for a cool Tunng-Twister, anyone? For these guys do twist the sonic palette, indeed, but in a manner that allows even the spoken word bits to assume their rightful place in the mix. "We're in for a lovely time," goes the repeated refrain on "Woodcat," and that's no lie. It's amazing how the guitar is rendered like a velvety bed of sound over which the vocals float, bob and weave, punctuated by other instruments.

"The Wind Up Bird," "Red and Green," and the intoxicatingly pretty "Jenny Again" all tickle the ear with Tunng's trademark, off-kilter sound. That latter song is where the cocktail of this band really kicks in, giving you a nice little high. But "Man in the Box" and "Jay Down" continue the magic, with variations, and "It's because…we've got hair" reaches another peak, where something that sounds like a tambourine adorns a delightful track with a beautiful mix of soft vocals. "Thank you for your light and fulfillment," sings the band, unexpectedly. No, my dear Tunng-sters, it's we who need to thank you for this sparkling, refreshing beverage, er, recording. Either way, it goes down real good… B+ | Kevin Renick

RIYL: Jim O'Rourke's Eureka, Pentangle, John Martyn with a laptop

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