Raglani Of Sirens Born

[Kranky; 2008]

Styles: psych, krautrock with a crush on Confucius, electro-acoustic improv
Others: Atmosphere, Voices and Organs

Of Sirens Born is Joseph Raglani’s first release for Kranky, and the album, like most Kranky records, explores sound unmoored from song structure and the demands of lyrics (and the lyric “I”). Despite his adherence to Kranky protocol, however, Raglani manages to trace a narrative arc in these five songs, which are perhaps intended to mirror the five acts of a play.

In the first two "acts," abundant swathes of electronic signal leave burbling acoustic touches in their wake; guitar melodies and snatches of chanting politely signify the foreign, indicating that a journey of some kind has begun. But by midpoint, “Perilous Straits” eschews the opening tracks' pleasantries and threatens the listener with a screed that blossoms like a horrifically carnivorous plant, its jaws opening to release anguished shrieks. With this song, the album suddenly morphs from an unassuming meditation into a violent paean to Birchville Cat Motel or Yellow Swans. “Washed Ashore” and “Jubilee” complete the cycle with more cheerful arrangements of static, noise, and acoustic flourishes appropriate to their titles.

Altogether, the album testifies to Raglani’s ability to wield electro-acoustic tools in the service of both blissful and aggressive voicings, sometimes blending the two. Thanks to the skillful production throughout, Of Sirens Born sustains this dual identity from the middle of the record forward. It’s a trippy album, but it doesn’t trip into too many psych clichés, or perhaps it has fooled me simply by tumbling into all of them. Either way, somehow the album emerges standing on two feet confident of its bivalent merits. It’s a worthy addition to the Kranky catalogue, albeit one that is not likely to become one of the label’s enduring emblems.

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