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Dianogah, "qhnnnl"

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It has been six years since this Chicago trio, best known for constructing mainly instrumentals based around two bass guitars and a set of drums, released their last record, 2002’s Millions of Brazilians. In that time it seems that their sound has been slowly fermenting and evolving in sparkling and unexpected ways, not least with the addition of vocals, and with the further addition of strings, guitar, and keyboards. What results is a strange musical dislocation, a selection of 12 scintillating, yet simultaneously bittersweet, indie-tinged rock songs that bubble along with a nervous, tangential energy that often goes off in totally unforeseen directions.

 

Southern

Having said all that, the surprises started before I even put the CD in the player. There was something about the package (allied to the press release) that led me to form the notion that Dianogah were a loud noisy hardcore bunch of unreconstructed shouty hooligans. However, what flowed from the speakers was the equivalent of getting culture shock or an unexpected temporal dislocation: here are beautifully crafted but somehow slightly fractured songs built from glassine melodies, chiming harmonies, and sinuously plaintive vocals. Styles veer from the introspective to the out and out explosive, in the process creating and presenting us with a whole palette of textures and moods. Whatever they decide to play for us, it’s never less than engaging and involving, a multihued exploration of feelings and atmospheres painted in a full spectrum of shades and subtle tones.

It’s hard to know where to start, such is the breadth and range on offer here. A brief delve into just the first half of the album is enough to convince anyone of Dianogah’s pedigree. “Oneone,” the album’s opening track, bases itself around a languid clipped bass-line framework, upon which are hung querulous vocals and ringing guitar harmonics that seem to hang in the air. The title track emerges from the other end of the spectrum, letting its hair down with a full workout of fuzzed up guitar ‘n’ bass and pounding percussion. The diametrically opposing “Andrew Jackson,” meanwhile, surprises me by opening with the refrain from Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” before settling into a mournfully beautiful guitar and violin piece, capable of evoking bittersweet memories and feelings, and full of pathos. Following on from that is the bouncy “Sprinter,” replete with the sweet vocals of Stephanie Morris (The Pawner’s Society, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir), but don’t let that sweetness fool you. A frisson of edginess runs beneath that charmingly honeyed voice wafting over the shimmering keys and Andrew Bird’s bowed and plucked violin. All the while the whole is firmly anchored by Kip McCabe’s drum-work, and Jay Ryan’s and Jason Harvey’s bass engines. 

This is but a slight dip into the many facets of a broad and wide-ranging set of songs. With an album of this nature it’s hard to encompass the full impact in a short review and it’s nice to be confronted by an offering that refuses to stay still or occupy the same patch of ground for too long. Some would no doubt be annoyed by the butterfly character of Dianogah, flitting as it does between different stylistic flowers. However, there is also equal certainty that the nectar thus sourced is of a premium quality. In its superficially bitty stylistic approach lies its greatest strength for me. Saying that, there is still more than a hint of overall cohesion gluing everything together, enough anyway to stop this from becoming nothing more than a nervous hopping about, uncertain of where to alight. Dianogah knows exactly where it is going and where the best musical blooms are; one has only to listen to this to know that.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 14 September 2008 12:54  


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