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[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
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Lisbon
Fat Possum
Terrene
The Indifferent Universe
Wax Orchard

Rating: 7.2/10 ?


July 20, 2007
The folks at Wax Orchard don't shy away from the fact that The Indifferent Universe was co-produced by Phil Ek, who has made a name for himself working with Northwest heavyweights Built to Spill, Modest Mouse and The Shins. If ever one doubted the role of producers in shaping a record's sound, I suggest one spin of The Indifferent Universe as proof positive. That however is a statement on Ek, not on Terrene, who would be shorted if simply considered the product of those bands' producer, as they have something going on unique unto themselves.

The band began as the solo project of John Dylan in the late Nineties before morphing into a trio in 2003, with straight-up drums, bass and guitar. The sound, however, is more aurally complex than that lineup would suggest. Perhaps this is due to the album having been recorded over a longer period, containing songs that were written as far back as 1996. Indeed, there is a bit of a time lapse feeling that one gets when listening to this engaging set of a baker's dozen tracks. Like a set of donuts, The Indifferent Universe benefits from variety; in addition to Phil Ek's influence, the album throws out everything from to the prog-rock of Yes to the bounciness of Architecture in Helsinki.

Interestingly, Terrene open the album with "Fifty-One," which Spin Magazine tagged as the "Cool Track of the Day" - back on June 30th 2000! God bless Spin, but on Universe, it happens to be the most un-cool of the bunch. Not to knock the fun Beatles-meets-Built to Spill song off its pedestal, but the album progressively gets more accomplished from there in, making the inclusion of "Fifty-One" seem a nostalgic lark. The following track, "Andromeda," is a far better indicator of what the band is all about: free-forming, melodious songs that feel as if they're barely planted on Terra-firma. The album art of an empty landscape sans satellite dish pointing upwards certainly adds to that sense (and, again, recalls Yes). This is where Terrene are at their best, in songs where one feels their longing for something out there. Later, the excellent mid-point "Stereo!" captures the flag: floating high-fret guitar riffs, teamed with moving high-pitched vocal lines, and a rousing drum march is the winning formula for this band. Fortunately, they touch on this a few more times on side two. Notable in its own right is "The Spirits on the Shelf," another standout that shows Dylan's acute sense of tender melody, including a dulcet violin accompaniment.

If you're wondering what the album's title is about, in their liner notes Terrene include a bit of dialogue from - get this - a Woody Allen film, Crimes and Misdemeanors: "It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe." I could find absurdity in using a quote from the neurotic New Yorker; yet the director has shown a capacity for wisdom in his comedies, especially human's struggle to understand their place in this world. So I will take it at face value that Terrene have made an album that, in their minds, attempts to tackle similar themes. It wouldn't be my place to judge whether they have succeeded on their terms; but I can opine that The Indifferent Universe is a hopeful first release, with enough to move the listener into a contemplative space.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro

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