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Torngat, "La Petite Nicole"

cover image Montreal's trio of talented multi-instrumentalists hit pay dirt on this album. Revolving around a core of keyboards, drums and French horn, the group has carved out a pleasant niche for themselves inside the well traveled corridors of cinematic psychedelia, employing numerous other devices and useful effects along the way.

 

Alien8

Torngat - La petite Nicole

Most albums don’t begin with an “interlude” but this one does, doing the same job as an intro, but better, like I am already keyed in to the action of the plot. It could have been written after the title track, which follows the opener, where the melodic themes hinted at in the “interlude” are stretched out and more fully developed. Everything here is arranged in well fit layers, like an actor in a period costume, whom Torngat might well be providing the soundtrack for. A kaleidoscope of timbres illuminates the hierarchies of the harmonic spectrum, all glowing, washed in the thick espresso sludge of reverb and carefully attenuated distortion that coats all the remaining songs.

Whereas the edges come off rough hewn from the fuzzy swamp gas effects, shimmering melodies float gracefully rising like angels above the crinkling sheen of soft white noise. The group show themselves as being well listened in the prog rock and kraut arenas. Feedback, heavy riffing, and fluid drums (sometimes sounding like they are being played underwater), are all evident on songs like “L’Ecole Penitencier” and “Turtle Eyes & Fierce Rabbit.” “6:23 PM” shows a more subtle, ambient side: the slow but throbbing key playing on this track reminded me on every listen of the dreaminess of the classic Eno song “Spider and I.” This is in no way a disparagement of the piece, but added a weight of familiarity as well as mysteriousness. Gentle piano trickles, alongside a windy electric blur, keep it full bodied and well rounded.

The real light of the group shines through on pieces like “Afternoon Moon Pie” and “Going Whats What,” streaming, coaxed out of the curved brass that is the French horn. Whereas many bands will have garish tracks full of bombast and unnecessary pomp when they bring in a horn section, a single French horn imparts a more pure kind of regality altogether. For Torngat it has the benefit of setting them apart from the crowd.

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Review of the Day

Nina Nastasia, "Run To Ruin"
Touch and Go
These songs make me into another person. I'm a criminal, then a scared little boy, and the next minute I'm the loner walking through the desert with a storm at my back. Nina Nastasia forces me to assume these roles with her voice in my ear and her guitars cutting down at me like vicious slaps. One minute I'm in quiet solitude, hiding in a thicket and the next I'm being whipped around by a squall bursting with lightning and unexhaustable power. Run to Ruin is just that: powerful and excited. Nastasia's voice is absolutely entrancing and the instrumentation is a fluid swarm of acoustic strumming, near-classical arrangements, and cabaret-styled, instrumental passages. "We Never Talked" starts the album as the perfect preface. Nastasia's lyrics are somewhat vague and manage to evoke a sense of wonder and mystery in every song, but especially on the opener. "In the car, you'd have brought it up / But I went on about that job / All the love I have left you won't know / All the fear I have left you won't know." The way it's sung puts a knot in my stomach every time... and then the storm begins. "I Say That I Will Go" is a story about keeping a promise. It has a deliciously twisted ending that suggests all sorts of mischievousness. Violins, cellos, banjo, dulcimer, piano, and some distinctive drumming from Jim White of Dirty Three drift, collide, and wail with Nastasia's excellent story-telling and clear, graceful, and at times absolutely earth-shattering voice. Though the album runs at just over thirty minutes long, each song is full of character and developed completely. There's more variety on Run to Ruin than on most albums that last twice as long. "The Body" begins like an imitation-baroque piece and "On Teasing" sounds like a tale told by gypsies around camp fire; it features an instrumental duel that sounds as if it comes from the spirit world. "You Her and Me" creates a hybrid sound that holds country and folk music dear to the heart but is much more bare and delicate. Despite all the acoustic and familiar instruments used, this is a unique album with a myriad of styles and alien melodies. Every time I play this record, it's like being transported to another world. Not one song is disposable and after the album stops, I have this incredible urge to play it again just so I can drift away.

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