Art is funny. Not funny ha-ha, just funny. Every time something distinctly different arrives on the scene, people scramble for a label to slap on it. Then we start throwing everything that sounds similar under that label’s umbrella until the genre is truly `defined’. Finally, when everyone is familiar enough with the label so that we begin hearing local news anchors starting stories with “local emo band _____”; so that chain record stores start making a subsection for it; so that indie kids can start to hate it; the label becomes passé, a fad to be forgotten.
Take the new album from French duo Cyann & Ben, Spring. Rather than simply saying it is a beautiful collection of music, people will want to pigeonhole it. So what is it? Alternative? This is a term that is of course, now ridiculous as what is now called alternative is the mainstream. Ambient? Some of it, for sure, but it’s more than that. Electronica? Not really. Folk? No. Folktronica? Who cares? It is one of those albums that bears repeated listening, usually on an overcast Sunday morning, a cup of coffee close at hand, reading the paper, and waiting for the rain to start pattering against the windows.
Ethereal keyboards, slow fuzzy guitars, and droning electronic percussion are only parts of what make this album so listenable. Try to imagine if Kevin Shields played a set with Sigur Ros after living in Paris for about a year and you might be somewhere close. As opposed to the latter Icelandic group, Cyann & Ben’s lyrics can be interpreted. I mean, really, how many people can speak Icelandic? Even so, the music takes center stage over the lyrics, so they don’t even have to be interpreted. As opposed to the former artist’s band, My Bloody Valentine, Cyann & Ben’s music is much lighter, more Air-y. Sorry, had to do it, they resemble that French duo also.
Like all good art, Cyann & Ben pick and choose elements from their influences; distance themselves from it while being true to the spirit, and then make something at once unique and celebratory of what came before. If you look at their list of favorite albums you can see that eclectic mix of sources of inspiration. From Neil Young to Grandaddy; Pink Floyd to Radiohead; Tom Waits to Kraftwerk. One song, “I Can’t Pretend Anymore”, even called New Order’s “Elegia” to mind. If you are anything like me or my wife, and you like movies with sad endings, dark, depressing books, and you like your art good and moody, you’ll love Cyann & Ben.
Various artists – Lost in Translation Soundtrack
Air- Talkie Walkie
Sigur Ros- ( )