Talking in the Dark

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The first U.S. release by the Belgian group Sukilove (led by singer/songwriter Pascal Deweze, who first gained U.S. attention as one-half of the duo Chitlin' Fooks with Bettie Serveert singer Carol Van Dijk) considerably tones down the heavy Gram Parsons influence of the Chitlin' Fooks album, for the better. The songs still twang with steel guitars and violins, but Pieter van Buyten's keyboards, which favor a ghostly, heavily processed sound, are right up there in the mix with them. (One track, the atmospheric instrumental "Box-Shaped Lullaby," is nothing but those keyboards.) The resulting mix of country and neo-psychedelia is akin to that of Beachwood Sparks or even Summerteeth-era Wilco, with the caveat that Deweze is not as canny a songwriter as Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. Though there are a number of terrific songs, most notably the ragged "Make Sure My Grave = Kept Clean" (not the familiar blues standard, but an original) and the lovely piano ballad "Box-Shaped Melody," Deweze exhibits an unnerving tendency to let even his good ideas run themselves into the ground. Many of these songs, particularly the sweet-natured title track and the stately closer "Too Dark to Dream," could stand to be trimmed; too many of the songs slip into vague, uninteresting vamps before they finally fade. That complaint aside, Talking in the Dark is an intriguing, often excellent addition to the steadily growing psychedelic country field.

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