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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
RF
Falls
Odd Shaped Case Records

Rating: 7/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Upon opening my newly arrived package from Lost At Sea, I hoped to find The Fall's latest album that I had requested to review. I wasn't sure if it would be their new LP or latest compilation, but I was well prepared and even had a quote from the band's namesake (Albert Camus' novella "The Fall") readily available to fire off. Due to one of my many typos I did not receive any Fall recording, but rather RF's Falls, an album that couldn't be more different from the work of Mark E. Smith, et al. Whereas I was eagerly waiting to hear anachronistic ramblings about pseudo-historical events and undecipherable British slang set to out-of-tune guitars, I got an ambient record about the changing of the seasons. Cough.

And yet I do not find myself disappointed with all of this; truth be told I would prefer to have The Real New Fall LP but RF's album is a welcome and unexpected pleasure. Imagine opening the door to a grungy gas station bathroom cringing in preparation of the stench, but instead finding a well-dressed attendant handing you a complementary scented towel.

All unfair and irrational associations aside, RF's music is akin to the Mouse on Mars and Boards of Canada brand of electronica, whatever ridiculous sub-division of ambient they belong to (drip-hop, anyone?). Acoustic melodies, that are as simple as they are sweet, provide the cornerstone for Falls, while glitches and blips flourish the entire album.

Sticking to a seasonal concept, Ryan Francesconi looks towards the forces of nature for such sound effects, such as sleet beating against a window in "Winter" or the sound of wind in the trees in the album's closer, "Spring." Seemingly quaint, these organic moments actually make sense in the context of the album because they are left without accompaniment--you just can't relate the bleakness of ice falling like raindrops if you're strumming an open E along to it.

A Berkeley-based computer programmer by trade, Francesconi not only arranges music with laptops but writes the programs he uses to do so. The result of this D.I.Y attitude is complete control of the music-making process; the sounds may be filtered through computers, but the authority lies with RF himself. He is able to wield guitars, violins, horns and beeps just as seamlessly as if it were all done the old-fashioned way in a few takes.

"Only," the album's most Boards-of-Canadian track, features breathy vocals coupled with dulcet trumpets and gradually shifts from a natural pace to arrhythmic skipping before you can say "A beautiful place out in the country." Francesconi's programming know-how also means he doesn't fall in to the trap of needless experimentation, as has been the fate of countless IDM wanna-bes - he's got those computers right where he wants them.

For all the pretty cover art and haikus included in the liner notes, Falls doesn't offer much in the way of a concept album about changing seasons. The inclusion of weather sounds is a nice touch, but it doesn't make sense that "Winter" and "Spring" are buried as the last two tracks, while the rest of the CD is relatively void of seasonal references. Nevertheless, the album stands out as an example of what you can do if you use technology responsibly and sparingly: namely, make electronic music that is controlled rather than contrived.

Reviewed by Andy Brown
A regular contributor to LAS, Andy Brown lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but doesn\'t think he has an accent.

See other reviews by Andy Brown

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