The Curtains

Flybys

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    8
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Though Flybys is technically their second album, the Curtains' debut, Fast Talks, was released in such a limited edition (a run of 500 LPs) that this album will probably serve as an introduction to the group's deceptively naive experimentalism for many. Perhaps that's as it should be, considering that the Curtains that recorded Flybys is two-thirds different than the version of the band that made Fast Talks. While the basic approach on this album is the same -- the band uses simple yet unpredictable combinations and collisions of guitars, drums, and keyboards -- the addition of Deerhoof guitarist Greg Saunier strengthens the Curtains' musical affinity with that band. From sweet, strangely sad tracks like the album opener, "Park Work," to noisier tracks like "The Burl," the call-and-response and doubled parts that are in Deerhoof's music also make the Curtains' music distinctive. However, the Curtains aren't quite as precious or poppy as Deerhoof (especially the band's more recent work). Songs like "Bummer With Cakes," a noisily evocative track that sounds like a bull in a china shop, or perhaps more accurately, an elephant in a bakery, and the lumbering "Saga," which has an appropriately prog rock tinge, have a unique spontaneity and playfulness that set the band apart from many of its experimental-rock peers. The band's use of analog synths is also distinctive; songs like "Computer Finch," "Moment With Plankton," "Pure Bronze," and "The Shooter" are still playful but slightly reserved and even menacing sounding, recalling the soundtracks of public television documentaries from the '70s. Picking out highlights on an album that blazes through 22 tracks in just over half an hour is difficult, but the lovely "Partners," which sounds a little like the infamous five-note refrain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind fleshed out into a full song, is definitely a standout track, along with the bouncy, triumphant "Telegraph Victories" and the bombastic sci-fi prog of "Alpine Hunter." While vocal tracks like "Observations" and "Snowy Visitors" aren't quite on par with Flybys' instrumental adventures, they do add to the album's freewheeling playfulness. An abstractly yet clearly expressive album, Flybys is a musical mosaic that ends up being more than the sum of its many minute parts.

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