Tunng

Turbines

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Over the course of their development, U.K. indie collective Tunng have always been torn between their folky hearts and their sometimes manic electronic impulses, usually ending up in a hypnotic middle ground between the two. With fifth full-length Turbines, Tunng strip away all of the sonic clutter that at times results in their experimental leanings, turning in nine tracks that cleanly mesh together disparate modes of gentle acoustic reflection, cold, mechanical beats, and almost sci-fi ornamentation from a collection of vintage synthesizers. The songs are oddly minimal, even at their busiest, with a striking sense of musical economy. One of the best examples of this thrifty arrangement is "Trip Trap," which stuffs its landscape with singsongy dual male/female vocals, spooky synth pads, and interplay between bells and fingerpicked guitar before dropping in enormous, sawtoothed synth bass and shockingly clean, vividly loud drum samples. As the song builds, even the huge artificial handclaps and buried frog sound effects can't detract from the focus of the tunes' hauntingly catchy melodies and the perfectly intertwined vocals. Similarly pristine arrangements shake out on the Broadcast-esque "By This" and the albums centerpiece "So Far from Here," a song that manages to blend smooth electric piano riffs, twinkling music box samples, and found sound percussion without ever losing its seamless focus. The pop palate on Turbines is so refined that Tunng manage to sneak in a kitchen-sink production esthetic almost completely under the radar of their extremely infectious popsmart tunes. Listening closely, it'd be easy to imagine alternate versions of the songs with just the folk elements or just the more sterile electronic segments. Either concept would work, but luckily the synthesis works even better. Somewhere between the most electric Fairport Convention moments, the most inspired moments of creative spark from the early 2000s freak folk movement, or Tortoise's flirtations with minimal techno ideas, Tunng end up with brilliant tunes like the controlled clouds of "Bloodlines." Remarkably, Turbines makes the right choices at almost every turn, never meandering or spending too much time indulging one idea but instead leaving just enough unsaid to keep drawing the listener back.

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