Spacey, dreamy, lush, trippy, ornate – these are not the adjectives that I usually type when writing about music because I’m easily bored by most bands that try to plow that road and fail. But there’s something about Caroline Schutz’s lilting voice that prevented me from hitting the skip track button, and the sonic landscape that she sings over (largely created by multi-instrumentalist David Gould, her husband) is consistently engaging. With a prominent bass and drum presence (kudos Jim Mansfield) to set the melodic pulse, all the flavoring (harpsichord, glockenspiel, French horns, etc.) can tickle your mind rather than getting lost in the mix.
I didn’t hear their first record, reportedly much more instrumental, so fans of that album might be pleased by the lyrical expansion. I’m ambivalent – her pleasing tone could have simply dropped some oohs and ahhs over tracks like “Darling” and I’d be perfectly happy listening to what could easily be an avant garde soundtrack to an independent film. Besides the diverse instrumentation there are some sound effects, tape loops and synth swirls; ironically when the material gets a little proggy, Schutz can even sound a wee bit like Jon Anderson of Yes.
The highlights are stacked at the back end of the album. A favorite for me is the throbbing “Big Bang”, where the bassline (way up front, like CSNY‘s “Carry On”) is soon framed by the piano and synth, until finally joined by the first appearance of a lead guitar on the album (brief as it may be). “Blame”, which follows, feigns minimalism but subtly adds in fiddle, horns, and finally bass clarinet; imagine mid-period King Crimson playing a very light version of “Tubular Bells”. It’s pleasing enough through speakers, but I’ll bet I like it more through headphones.
It’s been seven years since their debut, so check this out – it hits in September.
No, not these Inner Banks. The band is from Brooklyn.
Inner Banks on MySpace.
The DAG Records website.
The real Disko Bay.