Review: Crayonsmith’s new album

Posted: April 3, 2008 in Uncategorized
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With just one album behind him – 2006’s self-released Stay Loose – Ciaran Smith, AKA Crayonsmith, delivers his hot-off-the-press new offering, White Wonder, having signed last year to Limerick-based label Out On A Limb, home to giveamanakick and the excellent Waiting Room, amongst others.
Crayonsmith’s musical pedigree is remarkable, having, in the last few years, played with the likes of Sparklehorse, Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Grandaddy (sadly now defunct)’s Jason Lytle and former Cocteau Twins member Robin Guthrie, and the melancholic melody of these artists has not passed Ciaran by without a few notes being taken.
Taking a slightly different direction to the previous DIY ethic, this time Crayonsmith enlisted the help of one George Brennan (from instrumental hip-hop act Deep Burial) to develop the beats on the album, while all instrumentation was subsequently recorded by Steve Shannon (from electronic artists Halfset) at Experimental Audio Studio, a Dublin city studio that boasts several vintage amplifiers and synthesisers as part of its recording process.
The album opener, White Wonder Theme, is a grinding, chunky instrumental track, less than a minute and a half long, that kicks in at the tail-end of the album again and, as its title suggests, gives an idea of the warped, erratic beats and glitches that flow throughout the record.
Lost In The Forest bubbles with understated electronic effects and the plaintively beautiful The Boat works wonderfully with its perfectly-timed backing vocals. Other songs like Anything and Anxious have a familiar, warm sound that grows with repeated listening as does stand-out track -and a song I personally found made me misty-eyed for RTE’s fantastic No Disco programme from many moons ago – 16 going on 63.
Headphones are probably the best way to fully appreciate the amount of background work going on in every track here and the array of instruments and percussive styles are numerous.
If one were to try and pick some reference points as a guide, you could do worse than choose Grizzly Bear, (some) Postal Service, Casiotone and that Irish 90s alternative vein at times, but this is not an album that is easy to categorise. Synths and electronic sounds are coupled with guitars, harmonies and direct lyricism to create a whole album that is cohesive, melodic and emotional, without ever plunging into navel-gazing or predictability. Incidentally, the unusual album artwork is by Mike Ahern, from Irish animation collective D.A.D.D.Y. and it quirkily adds to the mood created by listening to White Wonder. Highly recommended.
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