Particles And Waves
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/11/2012
Particles And Waves deserves a place in the pantheon of great albums that use sparseness as a weapon to create beauty in abstraction, like Radiohead’s Kid A and Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock. It is undoubted that the typical Cranes sound is inherently a construct of sparseness, which effectively gives their music an air of spookiness. But Particles And Waves is made not so much as a “goth” record, but almost as a folk album. The ambience here isn’t spooky and claustrophobic, but spatial and vast and quite the opposite. The album invokes a sense of spatial illimitbility, whether terrestrial or celestial. This is true especially in the case of its most blissful tracks, “Vanishing Point,” “Avenue A,” “Particles & Waves,” and “Streams.”
This is a quiet album. And the quietness isn’t based on hidden or gagged sounds, but is because of its absolute simplicity. It doesn’t take much to deconstruct any cut from this album. The band is in conservation mode on this record, whether they are just using the bare minimum or playing music with timidity. But a joyless album, Particles And Waves is not – but a dreamy one, it most certainly is. Alison Shaw’s breezy vocals are fine-tuned to the quiet setting of this record and are lulling, but never heavy.
While the band doesn’t particularly seek inspiration from their gothic second self, on “Here Comes The Snow,” they definitely do so, with the song’s lumbering pace alongwith Shaw’s creepy singing. The blaring musical discordance in the middle creeps out of nowhere and wakes the album up from its steady soporous pace. So does the weird psychedelic mayhem (albeit on a small scale) on “Light Song.” The only “normal” rock song on this record is the title track, with its flowy guitars and brisk pace.
The Shaw siblings and the rest of the band have aced it with this record. The way Particles And Waves oscillates between surrealism and beautiful pop music to create something that is strange but still accessible is flawless, but not surprising for this great – but greatly unknown – band.