Dagen Van Gras, Dagen Van Stro

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Erik de Jong's gift is an ability to make the electric tricks of the music trade sound effortlessly organic. Dagen Van Gras, Dagen Van Stro ("Days of Grass, Days of Straw") documents his success in marrying the penchant for samples and distortions he displayed on his debut to the sound of a woodsy cabaret. Flashes of glockenspiel, strings, winds, horns, blips, and bleeps are held but not cemented in place by a focus on the pulse of each song. The process is one of gradual accumulation, and nowhere are its results more spectacular than on the opener: "Ik Wil Alleen Maar Zwemmen" grows from a rhythmic stutter up to a skip, collecting musical spangles and trinkets along the way. After a mid-song breakdown, the vocals fade to the back in a move that allows the various sounds to assemble and dance around one another. The effect is gently carnivalesque. Both "Het Voordeel van Video" and "Flamingo" thrive on a similar though more raucous approach. Even "Lotus Europa" (an apparent outlier that clocks in at over 11 minutes and is chanted rather than sung) fits the pattern to an extent. Dispensing with melody, it centers on the essential beat and the least essential accoutrements. De Jong's tunes are all spine and eyelashes. Except, of course, when they're not. The straight-ahead fuzz-rock of "Kom in de Cockpit" provides a dose of the energy that's lacking elsewhere. And on the back end, it's balanced by the record's most satisfying moment, "Bijt Mijn Tong Af." A crisp pop tune featuring "ah-ooo" backup vocals and a Grandaddy bassline, "Bijt Mijn Tong Af" proves a perfect palate cleanser after the hypnotic "Lotus Europa." The pair of brief tracks that close the album ring unremarkable in comparison. But never mind, there's been plenty to compel the listener already.

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