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Insofar - Sundog

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Audio CD: 3 Sep 2012 / Label: Penguin Cafe Orchestra

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      14.05.2013 12:55
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      Penguin Cafe Orchestra, minus several instruments, plus direction.

      Searching for appropriate background music to work alongside promotional company films, I stumbled across an instrumentalist band in 'Penguin Cafe Orchestra' - of which 2 members teamed up to form the likes of Sundog. Even those unfamiliar with the name will have most likely heard a brief melody from an advertisement or stirring concerto during the closing scenes of a film -'Perpetuum Mobile' being one of their most well known pieces. A brief liaison with SoundCloud proved beneficial as a handful of songs were showcased - '4LB' striking the right chords initially with its chinking piano clicks and clacks building a dramatic violin melody that soars through the song, dipping in a hopeful melancholy sway. 'Light on Stone' offered an equally enthralling but lighter, more piano tinkling focus whereas 'For you when it rains' sealed the deal enough to convince me to purchase the digital download - which' title sums up the sound perfectly as you imagine a steamed up window with raindrops cascading down beyond - this one being solely a piano piece.

      Much to my surprise 'Boso I' differed greatly from the previous tracks, despite its continued theme of piano, however this time the violin would be plucked and the keys much more pronounced and heavy with chords etching out a chorus. Although a tad more frantic than the first songs, its follow up track 'Boso II' goes one further to alter the feel of the album, this time with an electrical, groggy feedback ridden remix of the track beforehand. Personally, I prefer no.2 as it seems more progressive and build up instead of organised eccentricity. As to why both were included on the album? Perhaps the artists could not part with either, but don't be duped into thinking you're getting less songs - at this point there is still 9 left to go...

      'The Heart Waits' is rather incomprehensible upon first hearing. A downbeat piano and backtracking violin entwine together, desperately trying to find a stable rhythm, ending up with a mixture of melody that wouldn't be out of place in a victorian england backdrop or in that rubbish film 'The Village'. At 2:52 however, the song finally picks up some delightful meaning only to fall short compared to the rest of the album. 'Shadows in Water' picks up some much needed pace but slows down with chunky string strokes and a repetitive melody, its at this point the album starts getting old, only shining when short sequences break out from the already established sound. 'Parise (Song for Wayland)' takes a good 2 and a half minutes to conjure up any audible sound, and when it does, its hardly worth the wait because its an equally messy structureless heap as some of the tracks before it, not to mention the longest at six and a half minutes.

      Its worth noting that the average length of each song is around the 5 minute mark - so listening to 'Insofar' in one sitting may prove daunting - especially if you intend on giving it your full attention, something I would discourage as it works wonders as background music or the odd inspirational pick me up. 'Machell' sees the violinist become the repetitive musician for once but as the song is a short one, the sound dies before becoming stale, something a couple of the songs here are guilty of. 'Je Crois...' finally breaks out of the recurring themes with a dripping riff that fades into a crawling piano concerto. Around 3 minutes though, the song has become a chaotic calamity of contrasting sounds and intent - not necessarily a bad thing but hardly the most pleasant thing to listen to. 'Things fall apart...' again has an interesting introduction, however a strange bass-like melody and click clacks of something or other take away any expectation as it is yet another track that can pass you by - whether you try to ignore it or just get bored and skip it.

      Continuing with the odd full stoppages, 'A Simple Loss...' is another piano only track that's a bit bouncy but offers little else than the odd glimpse of madness that was present in many a Penguin Cafe Orchestra song. Its 'tinkly'. Second to last track 'Percy' raised my spirits though, thanks to a far more defined structure and pronounced melody. The pianos notes are struck with venom and the violin strings glossed over sporadically. Needless to say I used this in my latest company film. Unlike the majority of the songs on the album, this one features a definitive outro theme thanks to spiralling strings and intense playing. To cap off a fine attempt at a first album (albeit under a new name) 'Both Hands in Pockets...' seems to be the most poignent. A lonesome piano that echoes away, played disjointed and gradual, as if never to be played again. The odd heavy chord is thrown in over a wandering melody that at times, despite being one of the most quiet and haunting of the songs, is hard to grasp whether or not its a mournful goodbye or upbeat see you soon. Such is the sound of a wonderful closing track.. and what sounds like a rough accent of a content man muttering something inaudible that I at first thought was "How 'bout that Tony?" but could well be "That, roll that take." who knows...

      Although a mixed bag that promises a lot in the beginning, falters midway and picks up where it left off, 'Insofar' is worth the listen, as providing the songs to several other listeners has revealed odd results, many people seems to find a variety of favourites and differing opinions as to which songs work and other fail. Even without any vocals or distinguished structure, It's safe to say that there is something for everybody... as long as they have an open mind that is...

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