Gravenhurst Fires in Distant Buildings

[Warp; 2005]

Styles: indie rock, post rock, experimental
Others: Slint, Papa M, June of 44

I'm so glad to find that Warp continues to broaden their horizons. Their roster, which at one time seemed like the old boys club of IDM, has expanded to include the lively dance punk of !!!, Jamie Lidell's stunningly soulful R&B, and, even further removed from the typical Warp fare, the Bristol rock trio Gravenhurst. What's next, a boy band? But I digress...

The name Gravenhurst suggests something serious and weighty, and appropriately, the band bearing this name makes music of just that sort. Although most closely aligned with the pensive, brooding indie rock of Slint, they are set apart by many elements, but none more impressive than the beautifully emotive voice and lyrics of bandleader Nick Talbot. "Down River," the album opener, sets Fires in Distant Buildings off with a cautious build of atmospheric organ, guitar, bass, and light drumming which eventually blossom into cathartic rock riffing. Immediately apparent is the control and restraint that the band is able to exercise over their music. However, they are just as capable of steadily rocking with an insistence reminiscent of kraut-influenced groups like Stereolab or Electralane. This comes through on "The Velvet Cell" and its later reprise, where Talbot's hushed vocals are contrasted with the propulsive music. But the folk-tinged ballad "Nicole" is the standout, with its lamentation of an ill-fated romance serving as the bittersweet center of the album. When Talbot intones, "Oh Nicole/From the moment we met, we let it get out of control," he manages to seem both sincerely regretful of and unshakably resigned to his sadness. On their final track, a moody and narcotically hazy cover of The Kinks, "See My Friends," Gravenhurst again prove their spirited eclecticism by aligning themselves with the pop rock of the British Invasion, but in a most decidedly non-commercial way. Given the range of sounds put forth by the group, it is quite the accomplishment that everything hangs together so nicely.

1. Down River
2. The Velvet Cell
3. Animals
4. Nicole
5. The Velvet Cell Reprise
6. Cities Beneath the Sea
7. Songs from Under the Arches
8. See My Friends

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