on 25 April 2011
Dutch Uncles - Cadenza (Memphis Industries)
The Dutch Uncles' second album is an inspired collection of art-pop songs, tuneful and barbed, yet decidedly off-kilter. Inevitably comparisons have been made to both XTC and Talking Heads, which are quite appropriate, what with their predilection for experimental rhythmic pulses and occasional lyrical eccentricities.
The title track reveals their ambition. Piano and guitar set the scene, while vocalist Duncan Wallis recounts a tale seemingly inspired by his Grandmother's funeral. "Fragrant" marries a series of intoxicating vocal hooks to guitarist Daniel Spedding's spidery lead, and "Sting", for all its jerky cadence and jittering beats, remains intrinsically melodic. It's a ploy they repeat on "Dressage" with no less success, and perhaps it's inevitable that "Cadenza" takes a little perseverance to truly appreciate, though it's undeniably time well spent, and the rewards are plentiful.
Dutch Uncles are a canny five-piece band from Manchester whose new
album 'Cadenza' lights up the sky as though a burning match had
been inadvertantly dropped into a box of fireworks. Kazzzoooosh!
There are eleven numbers in the collection and their management of
complex, left-of-centre time signatures, energetic ensemble arrangements
and well-managed vocal harmonies is highly idiosyncratic.
There's a prog(ish) spirit at work here which takes me back to the
heady days of the seventies from time to time but the backbone of jangly
Mancunian indie is also alive and well in their well-wrought compositions.
It's musically intelligent stuff but gets the toes tapping too.
Michael Hann of The Guardian compares singer Duncan Wallis's shrill
vibrating falsetto to Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor and he's not far off
the mark but I found myself thinking about Sparks' Russell Mael
on more than one occasion. Either way it's a highly distinctive voice.
Things get off to a rip-roaring start with title track 'Cadenza';
a full-bodied stomper which ducks and dives like a bumper car.
The juxtaposition of ringing guitar, loping percussion and high-slung
vocals would not have sounded out of place on an early Yes album.
'Dolli' takes a mellower route to its final destination; an exotic
mixture of pulsing vocal harmonies and minimal instrumentation.
'Orval' is a real beast of an invention. Galumphing along like a
panzer division but with intervals of light and shade to add
variation and layers of additional sonic interest. Sterling stuff!
The musical box opening of 'The Rub' gives way to one of the band's
loveliest ideas. Lyrical, intriguing and full of glowing alchemical light.
Final track 'Zalo' is perhaps the weakest confection in the bunch and a
somewhat curious choice with which to wind up the show but despite this
small caveat 'Cadenza' is overall a very fine piece of work indeed.
on 29 December 2011
Cadenza boasts great technical skill and writing ability. I say this because the songs are crammed with all sorts of seemingly impossible and crazy time signatures and rhythms, but they ALWAYS work. You're left sitting there thinking, 'wait they haven't just tried to do that... wait they have... oh wow, and it works!' And that's the thing, it makes every song enjoyable, and gives each song an identity. It's a record that's always interesting and many bands struggle to achieve this the whole way through an album.
Dutch Uncles boast writing ability; the record is very creative, and when you get past the indieness of their sound, you realise that there is actually a lot of substance there. The Ink is one epic belter from start to finish, X-O is clever pop music in a 6/4 time signature guided by precise drumming, Dolli is slow and intimate but has that persistent beat change that makes it interesting. Zalo is another unlikely highlight, the repeating piano riff is catchy and you get used to the rhythm before the time signature changes abruptly (again!) and you're left with an I see what you did there expression on your face, as you realise that you wouldn't have come up with that idea. Each song sounds like they've put so much time to nurture them.
There is just so much talent on show with this one. Dutch Uncles have matured so much since their self-titled debut. The band have found the perfect formula it seems, who knows what the next record will offer.