Friends of Dean Martinez

On the Shore

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A sprawling, two-disc set, On the Shore continues the direction set by Atardecer and A Place in the Sun, and collects more of the group's sweeping, steel-guitar driven instrumentals. The first disc compiles tracks from two European albums from 2001, Wichita Lineman and Live at Club 2, and plays up the pensive, drifting side of their sound, while the second disc, which features newly recorded material, and emphasizes the band's edgier, jazzier side. Much has been made of Friends of Dean Martinez's "filmic" sound, and the group cleverly sends up their reputation by starting and ending each disc of On the Shore with the sound of a film projector running. While this does tie together the album's rather disparate material together somewhat, the two discs remain distinctly different: Aside from the relatively noisy, twangy opener "Overload" and the spooky "Alternate Theme," the first disc's music delves so deeply into the band's desert melancholy that it's occasionally difficult to tell when one piece starts and another begins. Songs such as "Through the Whine" and "Main Theme" make for evocative, if somewhat vague mood music, which is nice but a little disappointing coming after the excellent A Place in the Sun, since that album featured many diverse but cohesive compositions. However, the group's covers of "Wichita Lineman" and "Tennessee Waltz" are standouts, bringing back a little bit of the retro kitsch of their earlier work -- but not too much. On the Shore's second disc offers a little more definition and diversity, spanning the noisy, abstract "H-Hour Minus Five," the lovely strings of "Indian Summer," and the serenity of "On the Shore." Friends of Dean Martinez's experimental side surfaces on the title track and "Omaha," which gives a more representative sampling of the band's sounds to the disc and to On the Shore as a whole. Still, it takes the band over 90 minutes on this album to do what they've achieved in half the time on their previous work, so it's hard to recommend On the Shore to anyone but the most dedicated Friends of Dean Martinez fans.

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