The Marcia Blaine School For Girls: Halfway Into the Woods
Highpoint Lowlife

Comprised of three Glaswegian lads, The Marcia Blaine School For Girls (the name, incidentally, taken from the fictional school in the 1961 novel and film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) has crafted a marvelous collection, Halfway Into The Woods, that variously approximates a writhing, unstoppable dynamo and, at other times, a magisterial fairyland forest of nocturnal creatures. Though they've issued numerous of tracks on compilations and curated the superb Some Paths Lead Back Again a few years back, Halfway Into The Woods is, surprisingly, the group's debut full-length release. The trio (who, individually, are connected to related outfits like The Village Orchestra, Production Unit, and Accrual) weaves multiple styles into a shape-shifting and always-captivating amalgam on the hour-long collection.

“The Secret of the Mezzanine” initiates the album with a sculpted wonderland of bulbous, burbling beats and droning organ chords, a perfect exemplar of organic electronica that sets forth from one aural locale and ends up in a radically different space (in a six-minute span, “Barbelith” sequentially visits African music, house, classical minimalism, and IDM). A single track often feels like a compendium of electronic music styles: “Boris,” for example, marries a serious funk pulse to dubby smears and washes, while “Loelet” offers a frenetic mutation of drum'n'bass swarm and epic tech-house. The group's not opposed to delicate moments either, as shown by the shimmering lattices and harp melodies that grace “Yugo or Iago” and “Pink Inside” respectively. The trio heavily focuses on building multi-layered structures, with the chanted vocals that surface in “Still” and “Yugo or Iago” treated as merely components of the tracks' overall design. Generally speaking, there's little to criticize, aside from overwrought jungle beats that negate the syncopated xylophone patterns that lend such urgency to “Rude Mechanicals.”

The album is not only refreshingly unpredictable but also exudes humanity and warmth despite being thoroughly grounded in electronic production methods. The group's music might call to mind Boards of Canada or Autechre at one moment or another but, cumulatively, Halfway Into The Woods affirms itself as The Marcia Blaine School For Girls' singularly unique project and no one else's.

April 2007