Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Red Eskimo - The Grey Death Billow album review

Local trio Red Eskimo launch their debut album The Grey Death Billow in Dolan's Warehouse this Friday night. Review below.

PREVIOUSLY tagged as a "lo-fi" outfit, Red Eskimo's debut is anything but.
Lo-fi, by definition, is something sparse and ever-so-slightly beaten up - think about someone singing through a shoe, using a 50 year old microphone and a tape player to record their work and you would be on the right track.
The Grey Death Billow is "high-fi", if that even makes sense.
A wonderfully warm, textured offering, bursting with ambient soundscapes and samples, the album is lovingly-crafted and restrained - no bombastic, ott offerings here.
The fact that the trio of local musicians, brothers Neil and Peter Delaney and Robert Carey, spent two years fiddling and adding to the songs is obvious. What clearly began life as basic, off-centre indie offerings, have been transformed into a collection of richly-diverse, often electro-acoustic tracks, evoking the Americana of The Shins or Midlake, mixing in the ethereal feedback of Sigur Ros, and coming out as a sort-of Halfset, with vocals.
The vocals are interesting, singer Neil Delaney at times sounding like a softer Jeff Tweedy, his hushed timbre mixing with the blend of guitars, bass, synthesizers, harmonium, melodica, drum programmes - and whatever else has been employed here.
The delayed and dreamy guitar line of opener 'You Know What You Want' is crushed by the beat of follow-up track 'Ghost in the Machine' - easily one of the best tracks on the nine-track album. A chunky bassline and the twisting, conflicting vocals make this an eye-opener, 'you gotta burn, burn, burn', Delaney tells us.
The softest offering on the album is 'Grace', all hushed vocals and delicate - graceful - lyrics; 'her infamy grows/wherever she roams/the twinkle of toes/dance songs of her own'.
It is the seven and a half minutes of 'Headlights' that really jumps out, the aforementioned Icelandic band influencing the opening, before we settle into the ebb and flow of a Dinosaur Jr-esque groove.
The final track is a purely instrumental one, all dreamy electronica - and, wait, is that the sound of muffled cannons?
This is an album of surprises; catchy, veering towards but studiously avoiding sounding generic or conforming to a specific course.
Rating: 4/5

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