Cyann & Ben

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Spring Review

by Tim DiGravina

Seemingly trying to resurrect the droning space rock of 1990s indie rock, the French group Cyann & Ben concoct a decent mock-up with their 2004 album, Spring. In doing so, they blend three genres into a hazy, stifling stew: the progressive, lo-fi psychedelia of Bardo Pond and Flying Saucer Attack; the gentle electronic touches, bright acoustic guitars, and tranquil vocals of artists like Gus Gus and the Notwist; and to a limited extent, the calm-before-the-storm dynamics of Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mogwai. But though it's somewhat cinematic in scope, the album has a claustrophobic overall feel that is at odds with it organic production and lush guitars. Spring is built primarily on a foundation of organs and acoustic guitars, with Cyann and Ben alternating lead vocals. Both vocalists sing in hushed tones, but Cyann frequently stretches for notes that are out of her reach. The effect is unsettling to be sure, but it doesn't seem intentional. One can't help but notice a vocal similarity to Emiliana Torrini, but Cyann simply lacks the range for two-thirds of these songs. When she sings in her range, the songs are able to breathe to their full atmospheric potential. Ultimately, Spring feels more workmanlike than inspired, as its nine tracks, and one unintentionally funny bonus track, never break beyond their indie confines. Though it's occasionally beautiful, it would be difficult to recommend Spring to a newcomer when so many bands operate in similar terrain with more passion and range. There's a sense that Cyann & Ben are still learning their instruments here, and one guesses that with further mastery, and more adventurous production techniques, they'd be able to stretch beyond the limits of this somewhat repressed album.

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