Plumbiferous Media

Feral Harmonic - Old Canes

Oct 25th 2009
Feral Harmonic - OId CanesOId Canes
Feral Harmonic
Score: 40

Old Canes is the indie-folk side project of Christo­pher Crisci, bet­ter known as front­man of The Apple­seed Cast. The band began as Crisci’s solo project and even­tu­al­ly devel­oped into a larg­er group. Since its for­ma­tion in 2002, Old Canes has released two albums, its 2004 debut album Ear­ly Morn­ing Hymns, and its recent release, Fer­al Har­mon­ic. Though Fer­al Har­mon­ic shows poten­tial in sev­er­al areas, issues with mix­ing, instru­men­tals, and over­all sound make it much less suc­cess­ful than it could have been.

The instru­men­tals are quite clear­ly the worst part of Fer­al Har­mon­ic. Even so, there are some suc­cess­es. “Trust” uses inter­est­ing chord struc­tures to cre­ate a slight­ly dark­er over­all sound than on most of the album, which serves to sub­due ele­ments that can often become over­pow­er­ing on oth­er tracks. And unlike on the pre­ced­ing track, “The Last Col­lapse,” the track inte­grates bells quite suc­cess­ful­ly by sud­den­ly shift­ing to a bridge sec­tion and allow­ing them to take over the main har­mon­ic line from the gui­tar, then lat­er inte­grat­ing them back into the rest of the track. “Next Flood,” the fol­low­ing track also fol­lows in the same vein, although it does not end up work­ing quite as well as on “Trust.”

How­ev­er, for the major­i­ty of the album, the instru­men­tals are a mess. Most notice­able on entire­ly instru­men­tal sec­tions, Old Canes often tends towards over­ly dense instru­men­ta­tion, and while every line seems rel­a­tive­ly well con­nect­ed to every oth­er line, the music as a whole is nev­er ful­ly coher­ent. The entire album is infect­ed with a heavy amount of shrill­ness which serves no use­ful or mean­ing­ful pur­pose, and nat­u­ral­ly, the per­cus­sive instru­ments are most affect­ed. This prob­lem is then only exac­er­bat­ed by the frankly mis­er­able mix­ing job, most of which seems to have been focused on mak­ing the per­cus­sion parts as loud as pos­si­ble with­out sound­ing com­plete­ly ludicrous.

Fol­low­ing the large­ly instru­men­tal intro “Intro,” Christo­pher Crisci’s voice enters Fer­al Har­mon­ic. It’s imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent that Crisci’s voice is bring­ing the same emo­tion­al pow­er to this project as it does with The Apple­seed Cast, and the music ben­e­fits great­ly for it. How­ev­er, while Crisci’s ener­getic vocals have a def­i­nite pres­ence, they are too often buried beneath an extreme­ly noisy (and not ter­ri­bly musi­cal) instru­men­tal cov­er­ing. Equal­ly respon­si­ble for the mask­ing effect is the heavy-hand­ed appli­ca­tion of a vocal effect which makes Crisci’s vocals sound quite metal­lic. The echo­ing back­ground vocal­ists seen on “Lit­tle Bird Courage” have the same regret­table effect of draw­ing atten­tion away from Crisci’s voice, though for­tu­nate­ly this does­n’t appear again in quite the same form. All togeth­er, while the poten­tial of Crisci’s voice is clear, it is crushed under the com­bined effect of each of these issues in a frankly dis­ap­point­ing manner.

The often dark and melan­choly lyrics of Fer­al Har­mon­ic are well-writ­ten and well-suit­ed to Crisci’s vocals - but when com­bined with the sharp sound lent to the album by the mas­ter­ing job, the mood suf­fers. Nev­er­the­less, Old Canes has writ­ten inter­est­ing lyrics, includ­ing the more than vague­ly para­noid “Lit­tle one be care­ful / There are peo­ple out there who steal your soul / You can’t trust every­one / The more you sus­pect / The more you know” from “Trust.” The lyrics of Fer­al Har­mon­ic are quite pos­si­bly the best part of the album, and as such it’s a pity that they’re entombed under­neath many much less suc­cess­ful sections.

Fer­al Har­mon­ic has all the com­po­nents of a strong album, includ­ing inter­est­ing lines and melodies, vari­ety, poten­tial­ly pow­er­ful vocals and lyrics, and clear­ly com­pe­tent musi­cians. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, these ele­ments are often scat­tered through the album, rather than con­sis­tent­ly present in every track. It is then quite easy to for­get the promis­ing sec­tions when they are buried in the sea of over­ly dense, incred­i­bly fast paced, often bor­der­ing on rau­cous instru­men­tals, drum parts that are con­sis­tent­ly far too loud, unde­sir­able vocal afflic­tions, and tracks that are as well mixed as a lumpy cus­tard. All in all, Fer­al Har­mon­ic sim­ply isn’t a very good album.

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2 Responses

  1. alaugh says:

    This album is awe­some. I have no idea what uni­verse this review­er is on. If any­body can start a music blog and make them­selves a crit­ic, then they should have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to do their home­work. After­all, all of us are tru­ly crit­ics. Therefore…Here’s my brief two cents on an album that I could write para­graphs on… The instru­men­ta­tion and sound are a cho­sen style of Crisci’s, and are very well done here. This stands alone as a unique, exper­i­men­tal, indie-folk album. And the review­er is clear­ly nar­row-mind­ed and ill-informed on this genre. I encour­age all to check it out and see for yourselves.

  2. jared says:

    i agree whole­heart­ed­ly with “alaugh”. crisci is a genius, in so many ways. the work he does with old canes toss­es my mind into such an imag­i­na­tive state. he has cap­tured and sculpt­ed the con­cept of melody with what i can only describe as a child­like sense of beau­ty and inno­cence. the review­er, if one can even call him that, is seri­ous­ly flawed in his judge­ment. and i real­ly do won­der if he should even be crit­i­ciz­ing any­thing that crisci does, since he obvi­ous­ly does­n’t know a damn thing about him… like maybe the fact that he also runs his own record­ing busi­ness out of Day­break Record­ing in kansas. so what­ev­er sound he puts out is most def­i­nite­ly how he intend­ed it to be. “mix­ing issues” haha. dumb fuck. i would even feel com­fort­able putting this album up there with low lev­el owl v. 1 & 2, as far as crisci’s work goes.

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