Canyons Keep Your Dreams

[Modular; 2011]

Styles: Dance, Groove
Others: Cut Copy, Avalanches, M83

It’s become apparent that contemporary albums that fall into the wayward category of Interesting Dance have started to follow a template, opening with a slow build, adding lines and gussying those glittery atmospherics for about a minute, before dropping into some straightforward two-note bass line and trying to find a new way to count to four. After that, they range over their synths for 70 minutes while leaving no aural element digitally untreated, making sure to tackle any vocalists who wander into their studio thinking maybe it’s the restroom.

I don’t mean that. It’s just that Keep Your Dreams is bumming me out in weird ways, primarily because at no point does it seem like Canyons are interested in adding anything to the lexicon of dance music. The album’s two-track opener (“Circadia,” with the build; “Under a Blue Sky”) missteps by introducing a back-and-forth between a shrieking saxophone and the same over-pedaled spoken French sample, somehow managing to incite a contest between electronic groove music’s two most repellent tendencies. Normally it wouldn’t feel like such an affront, but underneath the track’s two dominant strains are some interesting ideas (there’s a sparkly guitar line at the end of the second track I’d like to bottle, for example). What’s aggravating is that if they’d just waited a couple tracks, they probably could’ve earned their indulgences; as it is, I’d rather they just got on with the disco. Instead, they’re just a litmus test, letting you know that what follows won’t have much truck with subtlety.

There’s been a surfeit of quality music coming out of Australia for the past few years, and Canyons are well established in that world (despite the relative remoteness of Perth). The two guys that make up the band, Leo Thomson and Ryan Griev, have had a small label for years that’s biggest distinction was signing fellow western Australians Tame Impala. Almost inevitably, then, Keep Your Dreams gets guest-heavy, growing weaker by accommodation. The shrieking guest vocals on “No Rescue” undo the whole track, a distraction that breeds winces. But the following tracks mellow some, and there are a couple tunes that can be welcoming almost unto openly accessible. The keyboard and bass going back and forth at one another on “See Blind Through” are a blast; “Sun and Moon” is a drive-forever nighttime jam that succeeds in its 1980s glorification by tempering the vocals and wearing its video game affect on its sleeve; and on stuttery freak-outs like “The Bridge” and “Blue Snakes,” Canyons seem to want to distinguish themselves at least a little from the peddlers of clap-a-long dance.

Thomson and Griev are rightly celebrated as DJs, and there’s no doubt they know how to use all the toys in their arsenal. But that’s clear only because they never manage to stop using all their toys. Their tastes vary as widely as their skills, and eventually that might up open up worlds for them, but on most of Keep Your Dreams, Canyons are trying too hard to be everything all the time. It’s obvious they have all the tools they’ll need, but it’ll be a little longer before they build something really worthwhile.

Links: Canyons - Modular

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