Cranes

Future Songs

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After an extended absence from recording, Cranes returned in 2001 with a slightly different lineup (bassist Paul Smith and drummer Jon Callender replacing long-standing veteran Francombe and Ros for live shows), their own label, Dadaphonic, and a fantastic new album, Future Songs. After the enjoyable if fairly conventional alt-rock effort that was Population Four, Future Songs is an excellent breath of fresh air, not least because it reflects some newer influences and approaches that the Shaws, who recorded the entire collection almost entirely on their own, had discovered and absorbed. While Alison Shaw's immediately recognizable singing voice had remained unchanged in general tone, her words were now heard more clearly than ever, while the refined gloom of Loved took on a new incarnation here, ever more cinematic and elegant than before. Jim Shaw played everything on Future Songs in a harking back to the group's earliest origins (Alison and on one song Tom Hazel contribute some guitar), and it's little surprise that, after 15 years of music-making, his ear for performance and arranging is so fine as it is. "Future Song" itself easily builds on the past -- its Cure-like combination of guitar and keyboards so immediately evocative of the early-'90s connection between the two groups. As the album progresses, though, hints of everything from experimental techno (check the beats and bleeps on "Don't Wake Me Up") to classic film soundtracks can be heard in the music. Aside from the brief clatter-collage of "Eight," the brusque industrial harshness of the earliest days is long gone, while even the queasy feel of songs like "Lilies" is now sublimated into a calmer but no less compelling swoon, as heard on "Flute Song." Other highlights of this remarkable album include the low-key guitar quiver of "Sunrise" and the pop-but-not-schlock sweet melancholy of "Fragile" and "Everything For."

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