The Den

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The Den marks a significant improvement over P:ano's debut album. The music has broken free from the post-rock ethos and has found its own indescribable personality. The slow tempos and harmony vocals inherited from Low are still there, but the music has otherwise gained a highly sympathetic form of wit: it bounces, sunny side up, on a few songs, most of them highlights: "Fucking Ugly Bouffant," "L.D.," and "After School Special," the latter a hilarious piece replete with cheesy organs, "deep" lyrical questions, and satirical musical answers. Now a quartet (Nick Krgovich, Larissa Loyva, Justin Kellam, and Chris Harris), the group draws from a pool of 18 guest musicians to give each track a unique flavor. These guests represent almost every niche of Vancouver's underground music scene, from members of the post-rock outfit Beans to free improvisers Peggy Lee and Torsten Müller. There is plenty of brass, strings, and percussion -- even a harp! -- and the result approaches symphonic proportions on tracks like "The Worst Thing Ever You Could Do," "L.D.," and the album opener, "Fucking Ugly Bouffant." The album packs 13 songs within 48 minutes, some of them being frustratingly short -- the opener and "Working" barely clock in at two minutes, but they represent some of the disc's finest moments. The Den loses some of its steam during its last third, as the songwriting gets more generic and the songs a bit too stretched out ("New Son" is a case in point), but it is overall a strong, highly idiosyncratic work.

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