Minneapolis quintet Clair de Lune jumps to Deep Elm for Marionettes, and the union is apt. Elm is one of emo/post-hardcore's more adventurous imprints, always willing to challenge what those shifty monikers mean; appropriately, CDL's racket falls all over the map, incorporating everything from modernist hardcore to meandering post-rock texture. Led by vocalist/guitarist Justin Burckhard -- singing, not screaming -- the band also swears by the piano of Adam Roddy. His keys warm the opening strains of "Passenger View," a preamble to the rush of guitars, and drums that don't so much find a beat as patter intently around the margins of the ivories. The song drifts periodically into squalls of echo effects but, like most of Clair de Lune's work, its compositional makeup and gang vocal breaks suggest a Fugazi influence. This would be fine on its own, but CDL cleverly melds its references into Marionettes' overall voice, making it an incredibly cohesive album. "Sailor Beware" and "Life On Remote" are wild rides of elastic time signature, effects-laden guitars, and urgent vocals, but they pulse on a direct piano and percussion-led rhythm that's unique and powerful. Clair de Lune avoids the quiet-loud, whisper-to-a-scream dynamic that's become such a crutch for post-hardcore; there's some of that genre's phrasing here (particularly in "Machinegun Lipstick"), but unexpected turns of arrangement always keep things interesting. Contrasting the comparative loudness of numbers like "Ghost of the Hill" or "The Things They Carried" is "Relapse," where a hissing synthesizer highlights storms of faraway guitar before expanding the system to include halting percussion and odd harmony vocals. With its concurrently surging and dissipating energy, "Relapse" dares the listener to wait for the climax, which ultimately arrives in thunderous, spiky, and instrumental form. Marionettes proves a solid effort from Clair de Lune. It's making statements in the moonlight.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus