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
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.
1. Muscle 'N' Flo
2. The Pelican
3. Wet And Rusting
4. Air Aid
6. Rotten Hell
8. My My
9. Boyscout 'N
10. Evil Bee
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