Tunng: Good Arrows
Thrill Jockey

Tunng generated strong critical heat with last year's Comments of the Inner Chorus and the trend should continue—deservedly—with Good Arrows, its third album and first to be recorded in its entirety by a full sextet. When Tunng's debut, Mother's Daughter And Other Songs, was received so positively, songwriting partners Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders realized their project had the potential to reach a wider audience and, with Genders opting not to play live, recruited others to bring the material to the stage. Having brought drummer Ashley Bates, Phil Winter, singer Becky Jacobs, multi-instrumentalist Martin Smith, cellist Dave Lewis-Floyd on board, it's no surprise that Good Arrows' instrumental palette is so rich.

The term ‘folktronic' has been used in reference to Tunng but the term misses the mark. Yes, there are folk elements but the term fails to suggest the woodland magic of its eclectic acoustic-pop-electronic mix: synthesizers, dulcimer, kalimba, and clarinet surface at various moments, and there's even a swishing percussive effect in “Bullets” that resembles a barber's razor being sharpened on a belt (and might that be a rooster crying in the background of “Secrets”?). Despite being dressed up with myriad electronic effects, the material at its core exudes a sing-along, acoustic folk quality (that's even slightly Beatle-esque in the rollicking “Bullets”), and their rough-hewn finish makes them feel as relaxed as campfire songs. Vocally the pairing of multi-tracked male and female vocals creates an innocent, breezy ‘60s quality too, particularly on “String” where the female voice is the more dominant. The opener “Take” arrests with its labyrinthine vocal melody, while “Bricks” captivates lyrically (“The bicycles inside your skull, send you away and out you go / Into the street where all the pretty girls collect their thoughts for you”). In fact, the hushed melodies in “Hands” are so appealing, it's easy to miss the gloomy sentiment within (“It's okay, we're all going to end up dead and gone”). The group's seductive sound pulls you in, and the level of imagination is consistently high. If anything, one might think of Tunng as an eccentric blend of kindred spirits Psapp and Múm with a dash of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn added for extra flavour.

September 2007