This, the American/Australian quartet's fourth album, differs significantly in mood from its predecessor, Stick Music, which featured a guest percussionist and string players. Here guitarist Bryce Dessner (also of rock group The National) and violinist, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Padma Newsome welcome back bassoonist Rachel Elliot and percussionist Thomas Kozumplik after their respective sabbaticals.
An exercise in the noises made by wood and string, Stick Music was a pithy, austere collection of instrumentals that were structurally more adventurous, but Lantern feels a lot more intimate. Again, born from improvisation, the group's compositions invite comparisons with similarly uncategorisable neo-chamber groups like Rachel's or the more expansive Threnody Ensemble. At times Clogs evoke the sombre mood of the miniatures that punctuated Henry Cow's album Unrest, but their more lyrical tack on this collection also brings to mind oboist Paul McCandless's semi-forgotten 1970s percussion, guitar, strings, and woodwind ensemble Oregon.
"Voisins" tears off like a virtuosic version of the Third Ear Band, with agitated bassoon figures played over compound rhythms of clattering hand drums and electric guitar. "Tides of Washington Bridge" finds Dessner's simple lute-like guitar lines subtly augmented by Elliott's bassoon figures and, later, Kozumplik's scraped and bowed cymbals. Although the lines are poised and intertwined - and beautifully played throughout - Clogs avoid being too polite. Such an exquisite piece is contrasted by the saltier "The Song of the Cricket," where the musicians operate in overlapping planes of activity, giving the piece a refracted feel until it is resolved in a formal coda.
The main strength of Lantern is that, apart from the subtlety and invention involved in its construction, the musicians have come up with tunes to move all but the most aloof. In this respect, "2:3:5" is the standout track. A gorgeous, melancholy figure on the violin and bassoon is augmented by Kozumplik's tuned percussion, and Newsome's ecstatic flourishes are joined by his cascading steel pans at the close.
released 07 February 2006
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