Small Sails: Similar Anniversaries
Other Electricities

As summery an electronic record as there could possibly be, Small Sails' Similar Anniversaries demands to be called ‘sun-dappled.' There's certainly not a depressing moment to be found anywhere, but that's no criticism: the album is one long, joyous sigh of beatific sound that conjures memories of warm summer afternoons spent cycling in the peaceful countryside amidst the constant chatter and hum of birds and insects. Small Sails, actually a Portland-based music and film making quartet (Ethan Rose, Adam Porterfield, and Gary Jimmerson play the usual guitars, keyboards, vocals, vibes, and drums while the fourth, Ryan Jeffery, accompanies the band's live presentation using 16mm Film Projectors), traffics in a hybrid style that's equal parts electronic folk and post-rock; reducing the group's sound to a mere equation, however, communicates little about the warm uplift the album's breezy tunes generate.

Opening the album strongly is “Somnambulist,” a delectable electronic-folk romp augmented by soft ‘la-la-la' choruses (Similar Anniversaries includes a “Somnambulist” video treatment whose outdoors imagery is as kaleidoscopic as the song itself), followed by “Aftershocks and Afterthoughts” (already heard on Moodgadget's excellent compilation The Rorschach Suite) which blazes a euphoric trail of celestial melodies and chanting vocals. The choirboy lead in “Farewell Weird Owl” naturally invites comparison to Sigur Rós and the song's yearning melodies are reminiscent of the Iceland band too; the entrancing vignette “Lawn Makers” also could pass for a Sigur Rós outtake. A robust drum punch gives Small Sails' material added heft and a live feel (the head-nodding lilt in “Earthbound With Parents” a case in point), and the occasional inclusion of vibes accentuates the band's post-rock side. The album ends memorably with the bucolic sparkle of “No Spirit Animal,” a placid invocation brightened by bell tinkles, acoustic guitars, and swaying rhythms. On second thought, perhaps an even better word to describe Similar Anniversaries is ‘intoxicating.'

October 2007