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The Luyas - Animator

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Artist: The Luyas

Album: Animator

Label: Dead Oceans

Review date: Oct. 12, 2012

Too Beautiful to Work, the 2011 album from Montreal’s The Luyas, was a lovely document of a baroque-pop group, impeccably played and arranged, with occasional shifts into a beautifully atmospheric languor. With Animator, their third album, those arrangements occasionally flourish (as on opener “Montuno”) into something expansive. More frequently, however, they tend to shift into a more focused, propulsive place. There are echoes of Broadcast’s early work here, the sound of a group taking a familiar sound, segmenting it, and discovering that the results can be infinitely compelling.

“Your Name’s Mostly Water” and “Fifty Fifty” have an elegant precision to them. The former rides along on a repetitive, minimalism-infused pulse, sometimes giving way to horns, while the latter places a rapidly accelerating guitar-and-drum part alongside a fragmented keyboard riff, a combination that calls to mind Portishead’s Third. Sometimes, the more hermetic sounds blend with the group’s talent for ornate orchestration, like the quietly elegiac horn part that crops up in the middle of “Traces.”

The group’s musical skill and pinpoint fondness for structuring doesn’t always click. Though this album dazzles at points (including the sprawling opener “Montuno”), there are also moments, such as the stately “Face,” where the pace rarely deviates. Though The Luyas can certainly sustain moods, this approach also approximates a sort of treading water; like some of the minimalist pieces that these songs evoke, there’s a fine line between repetition toward a transcendent goal and repetition that prompts impatience.

Thankfully, the former is far more prevalent here. It doesn’t hurt that singer/multi-instrumentalist Jessie Stein has a focused quality to her voice, and a range that can take it from a muted whisper to a triumphant cry. The mix places it at the center of these 10 songs, and that seems appropriate — it serves as a standard, a point of departure, even an animator for nearly every other sound on this album.

By Tobias Carroll

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