Giardini di Mirò: Dividing Opinions

Having built up such a solid discography of full-lengths and EPs, one wonders why Giardini di Mirò hasn't been snatched up by some major label to give the band the international push its music deserves—which isn't meant as any slight upon Monopsone but the French label, like most independents (including Homesleep and 2nd Rec who already issued Dividing Opinions in Italy and Germany respectively, 2nd Rec's as a 12-inch), can only do so much to get its artists' work to the masses. Certainly Giardini di Mirò's latest release finds the Italian quintet—guitarists Jukka Reverberi and Corrado Nuccini, bassist Mirko Venturelli, keyboardist Luca Di Mira, and drummer Francesco Donadello—polishing its sound to an even more immaculate degree (with some help from guests Apparat, Kaye Brewster, CYNE, Settlefish's Jonathan Clancy, and Piano Magic's Glen Johnson).

Certainly the band has exchanged its open-ended post-rock style for a concise fusion of shoegaze, psychedelia, electronica, and indie-rock, a move immediately declared at album's start when the anthemic title cut roars out of the gate for a too-brief two minutes. That lack's corrected in “Cold Perfection” where Apparat adds his customary propulsion to the group's euphoric shoegaze; this time the song's five-minute duration gives the band the requisite room to stoke some serious heat and does exactly that during the mid-song guitar incinerations. In the seven-minute closer “Petit Treason,” which lets the band stretch out even more, aggressive passages of stabbing guitars alternate with quieter vocal sections but the awesome money shot is clearly the volcanic wail the group unleashes at the song's climax. Emotive melodies buoy the swooning “Broken By,” entrancing “Self Help,” and anthemic “Embers,” plus there's an instrumental, “A Guide to Rebellion,” which begins as a funereal dirge for strings, guitars, and piano but transforms halfway through to become a crushing post-rock episode.

Though Dividing Opinions is overall a much louder album compared to 2003's Punk…Not Diet! and 2001's Rise And Fall Of Academic Drifting, it isn't wholly aggressive; five songs in, “Spectral Woman” returns us to the earlier albums' melodic electronic-rock style with whispered vocals and chiming guitars atop a propulsive rhythm base. There's also a lovely ballad, “Clairvoyance” that features a supple vocal turn by Brewster; unfortunately, CYNE's contribution to the song (presumably sonic design) blends so seamlessly into the mix it's unnoticeable. Loud or quiet, the band's sound is fuller than ever before, and the ensemble playing is beyond tight; certainly every great “rock” band knows how pivotal its drummer is to its sound and Donadello (who replaced Lorenzo Lanzi) rises to the occasion with playing that's powerful and in-the-pocket throughout. Some long-time fans may regard the new material's concision as a negative development in the group's sound since it leaves little room for exploration of the kind longer post-rock settings allow. But as a cohesive presentation of the group's strengths, Dividing Opinions' emotive shoegaze rock is hard to deny.

September 2008