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Grumbling Fur - Glynnaestra

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Artist: Grumbling Fur

Album: Glynnaestra

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Aug. 13, 2013

Glynnaestra is dominated by rhythm. A serrated buzz erupts out of the medieval chants on the opening “Ascatudaea,” sounding somewhere between a power saw and Tuvan throat singing, and rips right through the folk-ish modal melody. Later, rhythm will take the form of New Order-ish synth dance (“Protogenesis”), twitchily pixelated electronics (“Eyoreseye”), and cavernous hip hop beats (“Galacticon”), but always, it steps to the front. There are a few limpid intervals of tone-washed swirls and atmospheres (“Cream Pool,” the title track), but for the most part these cuts dance rather than envelope. They move forward in jerky, syncopated rushes and hesitations, carving divots of white space into luxuriant, multi-textural melodies.

Grumbling Fur is a one-off experiment that took root, a super group of unknown musicians. It started with a day-long jam in 2011 that brought together avant stalwart Alexander Tucker, epic art-rock multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan (of Guapo, Aethenor and Mothlite), Jussi Lehtisalo from Circle and Dave Smith (also of Guapo), and resulted in an LP called Furrier. There was another record in 2012, called Alice. It was also recorded live and on the fly, this time just Tucker and O’Sullivan.

Glynnaestra has much of the sweep and mystery of Furrier as well as the close, lovely minor-key harmonies of Alexander Tucker’s solo folk work. As in Tucker’s Imbodogom, ordinary noises like speech, tea kettles, hand claps are worked into surreal and dream-like patterns. Instruments, too, are both recognizable and slightly altered, the jangle of guitar and harp blossoming into otherworldly overtones, the notes of piano dissolving like food coloring into an amorphous pool of inchoate sounds. Yet it moves in a way that neither Imbogodom’s recordings nor Furrier ever did — playfully, lightly, but purposefully.

One surprising touchstone is The Beta Band, who also joined dreamy, folk-infused melodies to syncopated attrition. Yet while Beta Band cuts like “Needles in My Eyes” and “Squares” hint at this conjunction of folk and electronica, Grumbling Fur distills it further. Beta Band sounds like a folk band trying something new. Grumbling Fur sounds like a dream glimpsed through a cloudy mirror. They are less organic, less tied to song-structure, more strange and ungraspable. Even in their most accessible, pop-ish moments, like “Dancing Light,” there’s a feeling of floating untethered, of feet not quite touching the ground. Glynnaestra is not quite of this world, but that has a good bit of its appeal.

By Jennifer Kelly

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