The Church

El Momento Descuidado

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After 17 albums, Australia's premier purveyors of neo-psychedelic dream pop have finally come unplugged. The Liberation Blue Acoustic Series finds the veteran four-piece laying down 14 cuts -- including five new tracks -- over the span of a weekend. Beginning with "The Unguarded Moment" from 1981's Of Skins and Heart, they gently burn through classics like "Metropolis" and "Under the Milky Way" with an intimacy and intensity that feel more natural than any studio album that they've released in the last ten years. Though billed as acoustic, the Church are far too experimental to just sit in front of the mikes and see what happens; rather, they paint flange on key cymbal crashes, insert the occasional vocal effect, and rearrange the songs to fit the new format with mesmerizing results. Steve Kilbey's long cadences, Tim Powles' spooky percussion and vibes, Peter Koppes' mandolin and harmonica, and Marty Willson-Piper's intricate guitar work have never sounded better -- one wishes that they would have applied this aesthetic earlier in their career, as it complements their sound far better than the overly atmospheric production that's marred them in the past. Momento Descuidado is both intimate and far-reaching, and for musicians who have made a career out of dreamy, reverb-drenched landscapes of long-winded murkiness and occasional beauty, that they've finally reduced these songs to the point of clarity is both triumphant and long overdue.

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