Autistic Daughters Uneasy Flowers

[Kranky; 2008]

Rating: 2/5

Uneasy Flowers makes the most sense when you listen to it in light of Autistic Daughters guitarist and vocalist Dean Roberts' catalogue. The New Zealander began recording in the ‘90s, creating the kind of formless guitar noise that his country's underground rock scene is known for. In this decade, Roberts has added vocals and a great deal more structure to his work. His recordings with this trio, as well as his recent solo albums, have been quiet art-rock records that owe much to Bark Psychosis and Talk Talk.

Uneasy Flowers offers the same pleasures and frustrations as all of Roberts' recent music. On the positive side, the record sounds beautiful. Eerie laptop ambience, slithery clean guitar, upright bass, and slow, steady drums are layered in such a way that no instrument dominates and no sound is muffled. There's a lot going on, but there's plenty of space. The band is at its best when it lets its songs dissipate into hushed instrumental passages; in these moments, the musicians feed off of one another like skilled jazz improvisers.

Less intriguing are the band's attempts at more traditional songcraft. Roberts' voice isn't versatile enough to do much melodically, which means that the songs lack dynamics and differ very little from one another. Lyrics are also awkward: instead of drinking away his sorrows, the protagonist of one song "supplements his excess with elixir." When they aren't letting their notes slowly smear into one another, Autistic Daughters sound stiff and ill at ease.

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