A Lily: Wake:Sleep

Pornopop: And the Slow Songs About the Dead Calm in Your Arms

R/R Coseboom: Beneath Trembling Lanterns

With this exquisite trio of releases, Dynamophone stakes an early claim to a spot on textura's ‘Ten Favourite Labels 2007' list. A while ago, the label issued an auspicious Curium recording and now maintains that standard with music by A Lily, Pornopop, and R/R Coseboom. The artists' albums impress, regardless of the derivative qualities that sometimes surface.

Imagine a cross between Sigur Rós and Radiohead and you'll have a pretty good impression of the style brothers Águst Arnar and Pétur Jóhann Einarsson (from Reykjavík no less) cultivate in their Pornopop songs. In certain songs on And The Slow Songs About The Dead Calm In Your Arms (“Stop,” “Yfirtonar,” and the lovely acoustic ballad “Nicotine and the Backward Lounge”), the vocals strongly invite comparisons to Thom Yorke's singing style. In the marvelous “Centre,” bright vocal cascades and clattering electronic beats alternate with a lovely main melody that exudes a yearning quality characteristic of Sigur Rós's material while the melodic line of the repeated title phrase “It Doesn't Mean a Thing” is textbook Rós. A rather hymnal ambiance pervades “Sleep,” especially during its quieter moments when the Einarssons' vocal whispers seem on the verge of vanishing altogether, they're so fragile. Considerably more aggressive is “Death Tape” which adds a violent, distorted speaking voice to its already-brooding, even nightmarish ambiance.

In his solo project A Lily, James Vella creates willowy instrumental dreampop whose pitter-pattering beats, chiming melodies, softly murmuring voices, and fluttering guitars sound like they're emerging from behind a translucent scrim. Inspired by his girlfriend Leanna, Wake:Sleep is a valentine set to music created by the Canterbury resident and Yndi Halda guitarist using primarily computer and electric and acoustic guitars, but also accordion, piano, drums, glockenspiel, bass, and pretty much anything else within reach. A Lily's sound—somewhat akin to a Manual-Xela-Múm (sans vocals) hybrid—establishes itself in representative material like “Lights Shone Brighter. My Delicate Sun Is My Sparklin' Sun” where a babbling brook of fragmented children's voices and laughter sits alongside liquid guitar lines. One of the album's most distinctive aspects is its pairing of six ‘waking' songs and two ten- and finally thirty-four minute ambient epics, both of them improvisations recorded live using guitar and delay pedals (the two, by Vella's own admission, originally recorded for Leanna's private listening and sleep-inducement). As one might expect, the hypnotically hazy settings are constituted by long flowing lines that blur into one another and, yes, do convincingly realize in sonic form (“The Shipwreck” especially) the unconscious calm one associates with deep sleep.

On its Dynamophone debut Beneath Trembling Lanterns, R/R (Rebecca and Ryan) Coseboom melds Björk's electronic chamber-pop with a healthy smattering of Portishead's trip-hop and a sprinkle of Lamb's Louise Rhodes. Though Björk is an obvious yet undeniably natural point of reference, Rebecca Coseboom's delivery is emotionally cooler by comparison yet still alluring. The album features nine exuberant electronic serenades that melodramatically segue from a whisper to a scream at a moment's notice; the duo brings a shoegaze density to its hazy lullabies though one generated from electronics rather than guitars. Rebecca's honey-dew vocals navigate a path through snarling layers of electronic shimmer and aggressive beats in “Hollywood Ending” while her impassioned delivery on “Visitor Hummingbird” exudes some of Beth Gibbons' angst and Louise Rhodes' emotional intensity; by contrast, her voice soars during the hazy dreampop of “Baby Beating Heart.” The group's instrumental side is arresting too: unusual instrumentation (what sounds at least like woodwinds, dulcimer, and tribal drums) and a funereal tempo lend exotic character to “Soft Breasts and Ice Cream” while staccato typewriter clicks and syncopated beat clatter enliven “Eejit.”

April 2007