Brute Heart

Lonely Hunter

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Brute Heart's second album continues in the promising vein of its first, with the Minneapolis group extending the creative, varied impulses at play to seek a new synthesis that can't be easily summed up. The general tags of darker post-punk/art rock experimentalism by way of Martin Denny can still apply, but there's a strong sense that the band is moving well away from initial re-creation to a unique voice. Thus, the steady but joyous rumble of drums, echoed violins, and initially wordless calls on "Eclipse," the opening song, gives a sense of part audio document, part production sculpture, a difference heard almost halfway through as everything cuts back to a crisp, soft cymbal pattern over the rhythm. The emphasis on violin as lead melodic instrument in lieu of guitar remains a paramount decision, while further keeping the group from being boxed in -- if there's a deliciousness in the arrangements of songs like "Blindfolded," something suggestive of an older theatricality plus a tinge of century-old musical tourism to the Middle East, it always emphasizes mystery as much as play. The occasional use of guitar as a result feels a bit startling, as on "No Darkness," a part of the whole but far from the dominant one, while piano plays a strong role on "Charmed One," perhaps the album's best balance between rumbling drama, immediately catchy lines, and general ambience. When the band cranks up the volume and pace as a result, as on "Hunter," the feeling is of something unexpected, the supposed "wrongness" of the strings turning into a new exultance while the bass anchors the song in more familiar waters. "Serpentine," almost all drums and a touch of violin, is as appropriately sinuous as one could hope from the title.

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