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Particles & Waves
Manifesto Records

The Cranes have been around for decades, and a few select music aficionados know of them and their unique brand of downbeat ethereal pop. In my memory, I can recall the first few Cranes releases being a bit more towards the gothic side of the spectrum; darker music plodding stoically under the seemingly pre-teenage vocals of Alison Shaw. The voice is what was so eerily strange about their music… just a strange unearthly kind of female voice, young but strong, fragile but sturdy, and definitely more than a little haunting. The music has grown and changed, maturing to a more ambient pop sound, filled with clever keyboards, lush string arrangements, and folky guitars. But Shaw's voice has remained the same mysterious and wondrously odd sonic phenomenon.

Particles & Waves is a brilliant album from start to finish. The music is meditative at times (as on "K56"), flowing with hypnotic blips and a thundering undercurrent. Jim Shaw, songwriter for the band, takes his turn on vocals on "Every Town" - a track that oozes serenity and grace, built on a beautiful piano line and light string and guitar accompaniment, with beautiful vocal harmonies to cap it off. "Particles & Waves" edges a bit more towards a noisier spectrum, recalling the more jazzy moments of early Sugarcubes records. The song's rhythm is entrancing with its odd off-beat drums and strangely oscillating keyboards. Shaw's vocals are nearly unintelligible, most of them sounding a bit more like French than English… maybe that's why I don't understand them. Carnival-like and weirdly gay is the curious instrumental "Astronauts", a track that is at once captivatingly brilliant and eerily spooky for no tangible reason. "Far From The City" is the most easily accessible track, coming closest to a modern rock song. Nicely recorded acoustic guitar carries Alison's vocals nicely over a cascade of odd sounds, including an accordion, and a gently fluid rhythm track - purely gorgeous music for those who'll take the time to listen.

Also included with the record is a DVD featuring a brilliant 4-song set titled Live In London. The performance is exceptional, and well worth the watching, especially for folks like me who have never had the chance to witness The Cranes live.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Vanishing Point
2. K56
3. Every Town
4. Here Comes The Snow
5. Particles & Waves
6. Avenue A
7. Astronauts
8. Far rom The City
9. Streams
10. Light Song

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