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.

This post is tagged ,

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.

Leave a Reply