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Friend And Foe
Barsuk Records

The Portland, Oregon trio Menomena experiment with subtle mood swings and sensory-inspired consonance in the instrumentation for their current release Friend And Foe. Fat throbbing bass lines, weeping organ dirges, weighty brass continuums, and acoustic guitar wobbles waft through the songs with a casual stroll and lithesome gait. The band does all of their own recording, engineering, mixing and producing using a software program called "Deeler Sessions" which allows the band to loop and layer sound (midi) files together similarly to Imogen Heap. Band members Brent Knopf, Danny Seim, and Justin Harris implement an avant-pop ideology in the melodic breakdowns and buildups transmitting an Evangelicals-like songcrafting.

Friend And Foe follows Menomena's sophomore album Under An Hour from 2004 and their debut CD I Am The Fun Blame Monster in 2003. The new album exhibits the acoustic sensibilities of Grizzly Bear, the tangling music collage perception of Gomez, the lo-fi fluidity of Deerhoof, and the solace of Spoon. The tracks are inventive, melodic, and suffused with a sheen of jostling glockenspiel chimes likened to Ben Lee and The Boy Least Likely To. The melodic viaducts are inlaid with tight detailing, finessed transitions, comely sonic tones, and ambling rhythms. "Muscle 'N' Flo" shingles dainty child-like chimes with bouncy brass mounds, sparse drum fills, deep toned organ lulls, and soaring vocals. The tempo shifts hustle between waif-like spacey pop atmospheres and chunky buildups leading to climatic peaks.

Menomena juxtaposes seraphic piano cascades into the mix on tracks like "The Pelican" and "Wet And Rusting" in tow with the trance-like guitar hooks and broiling drum pulses. The heavy rhythm steps on "Air Aid" are adjoined to an oasis of delicate piano lateens, clovers of blooming brass pumps, light handclapping backbeats, and slumbering guitar rotations. The assembly of crisp rhythm action on "Weird" laces through the ghostly vocal brays and the shimmy of sitar-lilt chambers. "Rotten Hell" is a soft rolling pop ballad with spiraling vocals hovering over the mellow piano score. The tap dance rhythms of "Running" segue into the dark organ tones shadowing "My My" which harness scrapping drum strokes and reflective soundscapes reminiscent of Spoon.

The album craters a jolly vibe on "Boyscout 'N" with ducts of whistling and glockenspiel chimes along the upbeat rhythmic motions. Menomena indulge in flourishes of drum, bass, guitar, and piano psalms with injections of brass vibrations ornamenting tracks like "Ghostship" and "Evil Bee." The album's final track "West" is a strolling piano and drum melody which creates floating movements fasten to rays of vocal echoes and a musical addendum of wispy piano rolls.

Menomena's lo-fi aspects and mellow tones are similar to many of Barsuk Record's roster of artists including Mates Of State and Aqueduct. The music is comforting, amiable, and melodically hued. Harmonies are built up and broken down, thinly rinsed and densely ballooned and always moving with an intrinsic circular fluidity. Menomena's method of songwriting follows maxims of experimental perceptions and avant-pop ideals. They break new ground in making melodic collaborations that resonate charmingly even if it is done using sound files instead of analog sounds.

-Susan Frances

Track listing:
1. Muscle 'N' Flo
2. The Pelican
3. Wet And Rusting
4. Air Aid
5. Weird
6. Rotten Hell
7. Running
8. My My
9. Boyscout 'N
10. Evil Bee
11. Ghostship
12. West

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