The Boats: We Made It All For You

According to a note on the inner sleeve of The Boats' sophomore outing, “We made it for you out of love on a saved orphaned piano. Its rusty, out of tune strings, beaten by dust covered hammers on an unstable creaking floor. The vibrations of its soul captured one last time.” It's an accurate (if grammatically challenged) evocation of the album's aural nucleus, a decrepit, centuries-old piano sound so rickety it might have been unearthed during some anthropological excavation. While piano inhabits the recording's center, The Boats couches it within nuanced organic-electronic settings which, in contrast to the group's 2004 debut Songs By The Sea, exclude vocals.

“Jumble,” a lovely if fleeting overture of gentle cascades and pendulous tones, establishes an affecting mood, enlivened by the jaunting pulse of “Sarah Alice” and its glimmering array of piano sprinkles, acoustic guitar picking, and electronic whirrs. Soft piano chords calmly float through layers of glowing ripples in the dreamy “Mum and Dad” while “Bob, Ben and Kipper” begins ponderously and then, unlike most pieces, subtly builds in intensity when joined by accreting pulses. The more aggressive attack in the penultimate “Jonathon and Rob” initially startles for being so anomalous in this restrained context. Though an appealing ambiance of somnambulant, reverberant drift reigns throughout, most pieces come across as sketches—captivatingly pretty sketches, yes, but sketches nonetheless—, something one expects from the five one-minute interludes but not the longer material where one customarily anticipates development. Yet, interestingly, if most of the fourteen pieces sound sketchy when heard separately, as a cumulative whole the collection coheres more satisfyingly, especially when fragments of a given song reappear in others. In the final analysis, We Made It For You exudes an understated charm that's hard to resist.

October 2005