Plumbiferous Media

…And Then We Saw Land - Tunng

Apr 8th 2010
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...And Then We Saw Land - TunngTunng
...And Then We Saw Land
Score: 93

Folk and elec­tron­ic aren’t exact­ly the most obvi­ous musi­cal com­pan­ions. But for UK “folk­tron­i­ca” group Tun­ng, who released their newest album, …And Then We Saw Land, on the 6th, it sim­ply works. …And Then We Saw Land com­bines a well-orches­trat­ed folk base with elec­tron­ic flour­ish­es that, along with a good bit of cre­ativ­i­ty, cre­ate a gen­uine­ly inter­est­ing album.

Folk­tron­i­ca seems to be work­ing extreme­ly well for Tun­ng. Folk is nat­u­ral­ly beau­ti­ful, but it can often lack instru­men­tal vari­a­tion. With its electronic/experimental approach to the genre Tun­ng has cre­at­ed a very diverse album, still rich, intri­cate, and del­i­cate or pow­er­ful as nec­es­sary. The cycling use of key­board, acoustic and elec­tric gui­tar, and per­cus­sion cre­ates an extreme­ly full expe­ri­ence, even as tracks remain to some degree linked. Equal­ly impres­sive­ly, exper­i­men­tal albums will by their nature often con­tain some fail­ures, yet …And Then We Saw Land has no obvi­ous­ly weak tracks, even if there are some iden­ti­fi­ably weak elements.

Lead vocal duties on …And Then We Saw Land are shared by Mike Lind­say and Becky Jacobs (the lat­ter of whom steps up to replace founder Sam Gen­ders, who left after the band’s 2007 album Good Arrows). The rich­ness lent to Tun­ng’s music by its instru­men­tals is absolute­ly sup­port­ed by its vocal­ists, both of whom do an admirable job draw­ing the images of Tun­ng’s var­i­ous sto­ries. Lind­say’s deep­er base­line mesh­es with Jacobs’ clear tones, cre­at­ing a con­ver­sa­tion of sorts that con­tin­ues through the album.

At the begin­ning of the album, …And Then We Saw Land’s lyrics are some­what wor­ry­ing - the begin­ning of open­ing track “Hus­tle” isn’t all that inter­est­ing, but by the time Tun­ng reach­es the end of the track, they’ve shift­ed into the much deep­er gear in which the album as a whole runs, nev­er look­ing back. Tun­ng tells sto­ries very well with sim­ple lyrics - one of the album’s best tracks, “With Whisky,” cre­ates a beau­ti­ful­ly ele­gant image with descrip­tive remem­brances, which “Sashi­mi” uses short phras­es and bits of cut-in record­ings to cre­ate a more ener­getic environment.

…And Then We Saw Land gets rich­ness from its folk basis, cre­ativ­i­ty from its exper­i­men­tal side, and on top of it all, man­ages to stay very catchy and force­ful through even the strangest sec­tions. While tracks are often just a bit too long for their own good, they vary enough that they remain engag­ing all the way through. And …And Then We Saw Land cer­tain­ly does­n’t stop at min­i­mal­ly nec­es­sary lev­els of vari­ance; Tun­ng excels in its tran­si­tions, the best of which include the choral crescen­do first appear­ing after the first third of “Don’t Look Down or Back” and the sud­den, near-mag­i­cal a capel­la insert towards the end of “Octo­ber.”

Sim­ply put, …And Then We Saw Land is a rare album. There aren’t many oppor­tu­ni­ties to hear strong rock solos that some­how fit well in the mid­dle of folk tunes, and “By Dusk They Were in the City” isn’t even one the strongest tracks on the album. …And Then We Saw Land has so much to offer, from it’s rather unique per­cus­sion (espe­cial­ly on “Week­end Away”) and curi­ous elec­tron­ics, to the amaz­ing vocals and deeply rich gui­tar. …And Then We Saw Land has its faults, but sounds, over­all, incred­i­bly good.

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