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Steady Ascent To Genius,
This review is from: With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery (Audio CD)
The wonderful Spencer Krug needs little introduction. One of the most interesting artists recording today, he is to be found at the heart of the equally excellent Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake projects, not to mention Moonface, whose last outing Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped was a stunner.
Finnish oddballs Siinai may need more by way of exposé, but in fleshing out Krug's current folly to full band status they more than deserve it. Largely instrumental, always epic, Siinai also count among there member-base several on-loan players from Joensuu 1685, whose very credible vintage psyche debut still lingers in the memory.
Their intercontinental partnership with Krug is undoubtedly an obscure one, yet, responsible for the majority of Heartbreaking Bravery's musical direction, Siinai often prove a strikingly beautiful counterfoil to Krug's ever-distinctive vocal and sheer bravado, such as the shimmery guitar drone they provide during the strong opener - the only real mistread of this collaboration coming via the relative non-event "Quickfire, I Tried".
With the exception of "****ty City" (a marauding electro offering underpinned with a swimmingly dense narrative), Heartbreaking Bravery is an album mostly built on cohesive restraint, both Krug and Siinai knowing when to go for it and when to hold back. The solemn, near-Gothic "Headed For The Door", for example, draws its strength from dripping woodblock FX, slow-burn synth and a distant drum beat.
In such company the arresting synth progression and doomed graunches that erupt during the relatively brief "I'm Not The Phoenix Yet" retain the power to surprise - just as the subtle, noodling electro underlay does on the drifting "Faraway Lightning", keeping the track bubbling as well as the mind melting in a way reminiscent of many of the current Not Not Fun crop.
Knowing they have an ace in hand however, Krug/Siinai aren't above saving their best `til last with the epic "Lay Your Cheek On Down". A powerful, almost neo-operatic combination of Krug's trademark theatrics and Siinai's balancing of simmering synth and post-rock bluster it crashes both worlds together in a glorious and fitting crescendo.
It's a disappointing fact that the modern world wants to be spoon-fed. Krug, however, finds as much reward in challenges as he does in basking in successful conclusion. Hell, remember this is a guy that last year dropped a jaw-dropping album with little save the parping decadence of double-manual organ (a toy also let out to play on a couple of occasions here). Consequently, there's no hiding from another few facts: Krug demands the same of his devoted listeners as he does himself, and Heartbreaking Bravery is nothing if not more proof of his steady ascent to genius.
Advised downloads: "Heartbreaking Bravery" and "Lay Your Cheek On Down".