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The Curtains - Flybys

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Artist: The Curtains

Album: Flybys

Label: Thin Wrist

Review date: May. 18, 2004

With connections to Deerhoof and Open City, it's probably not a surprise that the Curtains are purveyors of twisty, rickety songs that come across like half-heard music on the radio. On Flybys they deliver 22 songs in a half hour, with most around the 2-minute mark.

While The Curtains remain a trio, the only member remaining from their previous album, Fast Talks, is guitarist Chris Cohen. On drums now is Open City member Andrew Maxwell, while Deerhoof's Greg Saunier is on keyboards, replacing second guitarist Trevor Shimizu. The switch from two guitars to guitar plus keyboard obviously makes Flybys a different-sounding album, but the approach remains somewhat the same.

Many, if not most, of the tracks here feel like frameworks, audio sketches made from guitar, drums, and synth. At their best, this minimal approach leaves the instruments floating, suspended in a clear sky sometimes pretty, sometimes jarring. On the other hand, some songs feel distinctly unfinished and awkward.

Combining often toy-like synths with raw, pointy guitar and clattering drums, there are certainly moments of harsh, distorted madness here. But more often there's a sense of waiting, as stop-start rhythms and moments of silence bracket the jagged guitar strums and thick synthesizer sounds.

The more structured songs include "Bummer with Cakes," based on a simple synth arpeggio with distorted guitar and drums nearly following the rhythm; and "Fast Talks," a jolly slow-motion march. "Partners" shows a different side; it's a rather pretty, melancholy tune stripped of the band's penchant for spikiness. And "Telegraph Victories" is one of the better tracks, a piece that would make a fine cartoon theme song.

Flybys is a strange one overall, a smorgasbord which grows more and more unpredictable as it unfolds. In among the half-finished bits and somewhat sloppy pieces lie some legitimately memorable songs, but listeners will find the inconsistency either playfully endearing or vaguely annoying.

By Mason Jones

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