Tunng Comments of the Inner Chorus

[Full Time Hobby; 2007]

Styles: folktronica, indie rock
Others: The Notwist, The Books, Julian Hinton

Comments of the Inner Chorus is the second long-player from Tunng, a London-based duo made up of singer Sam Genders and guitarist Mike Lindsay. The two used to collaborate on soft-core porn soundtracks but formed Tunng in 2005 to make crackly folk songs with digital accoutrements.

“Stories,” the short seam stitching together the front and back halves of the album, is actually the most engaging track: Tunng forego the rather by-the-numbers folk treacle of the rest of the disc and put their guitar chops and talent as arrangers to work in service of a far more evocative composition. A didactic voice (the same kind that DJs often splice into their beats to create the stiff-white-guy-vs.-smoove-MC juxtaposition) speaks the title with faux-dramatic intonation, while a detuned guitar loop rolls through degraded static like an old, crippled dog bathing in a mud puddle. After each intrusion from the speaker, the loop accrues elements (808 kickdrum, twisting guitar shards) that gradually synthesize all of the emotions these two try so hard (too hard?) to elicit elsewhere with their sweetheart lyrics and hush-hush, love-letter singing. The track finishes in just under three minutes, but I think it contains a blueprint for material that could distinguish the group from the loads of other bands with acoustic guitars, romantic streaks, and at least a passing affinity for electronic programming. “Man in The Box” is less succinct but similarly well-crafted. Here the digital accents are adhered with great care to the warm guitar strums, yielding one of the more intuitive integrations of the digital and the acoustic that I’ve heard since The Notwist’s Neon Golden.

Sometimes the decisions these two make perplex me. Why isn’t the menacing, industrial coda to “Sweet William” the scaffolding for the entire song? It’s there that the song’s story of murder and autumnal infatuation really finds a voice -- and without any singing! Unfortunately, too many tracks here suffer from just this problem: a skilled and risky arrangement is smooshed beneath mollifying layers of voice-carrying lyrics that are sometimes adequate, but often stultifying in their sweetness. “Engine Room” may not be a total success, but the use of trancey synth washes and an irascible low-end show the band’s willingness to try new ideas. In this finale, the atmosphere and the lyrics perform a paradoxical sort of destructive interference on each other. The words are somewhat obscured in the song’s alternately rumbling and celestial calisthenics, but it communicates more effectively than almost any other track on the record. Tunng would do well to explore this kind of writing in the future. When they do so on Comments, the results are far more moving than their earnest invocations of morning tea and holding hands.

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