Rhine GoldAlbum |
The midpoint between Radiohead and Fleet Foxes.
On a quick casual listen, the second album by Danish collective Choir of Young Believers sounds pleasant but uninvolving, as if excellently-named singer-songwriter Jannis Noya Makrigiannis had started with the epic intent of an Arcade Fire but couldn't be bothered to deliver that level of emotion. But Choir of Young Believers are after a more subtle effect here: not the traditional slow-build tension and release, but a trickier sort of de-stabilization. Several songs, most notably the krautrock-based 10-minute epic "Paralyse" and the creepily atmospheric "Have I Ever Truly Been Here," turn on sudden dub-like drop-outs that pull the musical rug out from under the listener. Makrigiannis' voice, an earnest tenor roughly equidistant between Sigur Ros' Jonsi and Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold, is an agreeable instrument somewhat hampered by the album's generally forgettable lyrics, but the real appeal of Rhine Gold is in the subtle details of the arrangements. The album's press kit specifically namechecks Neil Young and The Zombies, but that taste for the artsier side of late '60s psychedelia is passed through several decades' worth of filters, most notably the semi-electronic stillness of late '90s Yo La Tengo and a less self-consciously "experimental" version of post-OK Computer Radiohead. Not everything works -- ironically, the most conventionally poppy songs are the album's weakest links -- but Rhine Gold is never less than interesting, and often points to even better still to come.