Songs For Polarbears

The popular image of an acoustic quartet is of a cluster of earnest folkies in chunky cardigans strumming away. Nasty .. .

THE POPULAR IMAGE OF AN acoustic quartet is of a cluster of earnest folkies in chunky cardigans strumming away. Nasty. But when former members of Tortoise, Come, Rex and Directions In Music get together to express themselves in this fashion, the instinct to react with violence is not so pronounced.

A little side-project by Douglas McCombs, Bundy K Brown, Curtis Harvey and Chris Brokaw, 'Turnstyles & Junkpiles' states the fact that we have entered an era of not only lo-fi, but ultra lo-fi. What else would drive people to record using only two microphones and a two-track? The ensuing series of instrumental song sketches are by turns evocative, lyrical and heavy with a submerged sense of unease, like Ry Cooder's soundtrack for Paris, Texas filtered through the minds of distressed rock musicians.

Pullman are too determined to escape the constrictions of song format to write in a linear manner, so the likes of the familiar (and yet hard to place) 'Tall Grass' suggest a sense of dissonance which isn't strictly speaking there. Along the same lines, the stark 'Two Parts Water' invites the listener to use their mind to fill in the spaces between notes.

Whatever the avowed intention that drives this project, Pullman refuse to allow the comfortable and reflective drift off into reverie that would normally accompany such a scaled-down recording.
8 / 10

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