The Horse Flies

Gravity Dance

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After the "deep north" gothic freak-out of 1987's Human Fly, Ithaca, NY, bluegrass deconstructionists the Horseflies returned with Gravity Dance, a decidedly more focused record than Fly, yet similarly unmarketable. Fans looking for the group to flex the old-timey muscles that produced fiddle frenzies like "Cornbread" and "Who Throwed Lye on My Dog" will be disappointed, while those who enjoyed the twisted experimental pop of tracks like "I Live Where It's Gray" will find Gravity Dance to be a compelling listen. The band had found a home at MCA, and with it the funding to take a stab at the mainstream. For the most part the songs succeed, adapting to producer Hilton Rosenthal's slick fingers like apple butter, but on tunes like "Passion Is an Art Form" and "Cold Out There," the "big studio" shine is positively blinding. "Life Is a Rubber Rope," the serpentine opener, gives a pretty good indication as to what follows: treated banjos and violins, eccentric lyrics that reference everything from road kill to Tiananmen Square, and an overwhelming sense of backwoods atmosphere. A dark net of pines falls over standout tracks like "Starvation Waltz," "Time Is Burning Down," and a truly haunting -- and lyrically tweaked -- version of the folk standard "Sally Ann." It's these three tunes that keep the record from coming apart at the seams, as Gravity Dance sounds exactly like what it is -- an oversupervised experiment.

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