Pelican City

The Chilling Effect

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Drawing on both the neo-film noir effects of the Bristol U.K. crowd (Massive Attack, Portishead) and the goth-hop moodouts of folks like DJ Shadow, The Chilling Effect finds Brian Burton creating a series of darkly beautiful crawls through music. The elements aren't unfamiliar -- lonesome sax wailing, buried string orchestrations, distant piano parts, all overlaid by slow and steady beats -- but somehow he hotwires it just enough to make it worth listening to instead of worth briefly acknowledging. At his best, Burton's ear for understated dynamics and a clear sense of late-night mystery makes The Chilling Effect readily live up to its name. "The City" -- with two contrasting vocal samples (a rather tweaked, sung falsetto and an MC snippet) against the music -- and the sudden, nervous orchestral parts increasing the tension on "The Chase" show how he can readily capture a feeling. Assistance from various guests throughout adds individual flair, often resulting in lovely combinations. Todd Monfalcone's gentle, heart-tugging guitar on "The Bleeding Fader" adds a delicate romance to its muffled breaks and curious keyboard moans, while Scott Patton provides similarly moody work on songs like "Calling the Birds" and "The Bedroom," among other songs. Twice, meanwhile, Burton takes a song from another band entirely -- Neutral Milk Hotel's "The Fool" and Wunderkind's "Come on Air" -- and carries out a bit of a remix, adding new rhythm tracks and rearrangements. "The Fool" comes out very well in particular, becoming a strange, stately death march. Burton's a fine multi-instrumentalist himself, playing everything on a number of songs, including "Still Alone" and the two-part "Danger's Theme," which forms the heart of the disc, evocatively suggesting the slow fade of a film sequence to black with its mesmerizing, cyclical conclusion.

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