Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Handsome Furs Rips From Reality

Alexei Perry and Dan BoecknerWhen it comes to coloring outside the lines, Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and his wife Alexei Perry have always done so in big bold and meaty strokes. Their new LP, Sound Kapital, pushes outside even further with its electronic leanings and provocative content.

Most people will probably miss the guitar emphasis that became part of the Handsome Furs videos at first. It's still there in smaller doses, sometimes as white noise, with the whole of the album serving as a reminder that Boeckner appreciates playing to the unpredictability of his craft. You won't miss the guitar for long.

There is a refinement here moves even further away from Boeckner and the rattling indie sound of Wolf Parade. Some of the album can even be called subdued or restrained but no less urgent. What About Us? is even trending with a video that prompted SubPop Records to release a censored and uncensored version.

Kapital Sounds has urgent meanderings and a smooth finish.

The supportive role of the guitar is sometimes diminished to a distorted undertow with Perry's keys and synth taking on a prominent role, second only to the lyrics. It's the lyrics where Boeckner puts all of his focus, creating a restrained urgency. It also reinforces how much of his talent and genius come from being a confident and convicted songwriter.

According to SubPop Records, it's all by design. Boeckner wanted to prove once again that electronic isn't detached from the human experience. (They even conjure images of Wendy Carlos accompanied Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian vision of A Clockwork Orange.) And, on Sound Kapital, they reject the myth with every fiber of their beings.

The ten-track bonus album (the tenth track Agony is a must have) is a fully engaged and fresh expression for the duo. It also allowed Boeckner to write on the road, fitting all of their compact gear into a subcompact or less before exploring the world.

The deliberatecy of the human experience.

Case in point: Damage incorporates samples of radio broadcasts concerning a Hong Kong hostage situation not because the Handsome Furs had something to say about it but because they were in the Philippines while it unfolded. It is part of the inspiration behind the album. Boeckner and Perry both wanted to learn something about bands that didn't want to escape to sun-drenched paradises to write material.

So where did they go? Repatriated and Cheap Music were inspired by repressed regions like Myanmar and the city of Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. Their journey also included stops in South America, the Far East, and Eastern Europe. They visited crowded, pulsing cities in China and Korea. And they welcomed it all as blank slates wanting to better understand the world.

The cleaner sound can be attributed to the compositions as well as the mile deep team behind it. It was recorded in Montreal, preserved at Hotel2Tango, mixed at Kaiku Studios, and mastered back home in Montreal. Howard Bilerman, Arlen Thompson, Antti Joas, Jonas Verwijnen, and Harris Newman all had their hands on this one.

The best tracks include Serve The People, Repatriated, Bury Me Standing, No Feelings, and What About Us? If anyone hears hints of a retro vibe, the biggest throwback would probably be the bonus track. And personally, that one is my favorite on the album.

Sound Kapital By The Handsome Furs Rips Reality At 8.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

There is undoubtedly a lot of ugliness within the album, but not in the arrangements. The album is easily more mature, deliberate, and dark. It may even be named after photographer Matthew Neiderhauser's book Sound Kapital: Beijing's Music Underground.

Sound Kapital is readily available at iTunes or you can download the Sound Kapital album from Amazon. Barnes & Noble has the CD and a vinyl edition. You can also sign up for a free download of Repatriated and What About Us? on the SubPop Records Handsome Furs page. Enjoy.
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