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Metallic Falcons - Desert Doughnuts

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Artist: Metallic Falcons

Album: Desert Doughnuts

Label: Voodoo-EROS

Review date: Jul. 16, 2006

Luminous, lovely and diaphanously indeterminate, this first full-length collaboration between CocoRosie's Sierra Casady and the Voodo-EROS label's Matteah Baim often sounds like a radio catching wildly different stations, oscillating between buzzing guitar motifs, silly b-movie fantasy scripts and operatic trills.

The disc's first two cuts set its mysteriously beautiful tone, with cathedral-worthy chants billowing into uneasy harmonies. "Journey" wafts gently on clouds of overtones, voices hitting notes then dissolving into misty indefiniteness, until they part suddenly for a clear solo. The church-like tone – there's even an organ trembling in the background – is ruptured quite suddenly by distorted guitar, in an uneasy balance of harshness and delicacy. "Airships" is even more gorgeous, its rock-steady 12/8 shuffle breaking for a high delicate siren call of "Come with me…Come with me."

The disc includes numerous unattributed contributions from the free-folk tribe, with Antony haunting the opening of "Nighttime and Morning," and Jana Hunter slipping her signature blurred and blued slides into "Pale Dog." Tarantula A.D.'s Greg Cosgrove hammers away in the background, free-jazz drumming knocking ecclesiastical harmonies off their pedestals, and upending nursery school lullabies with nervous energy. But you'll have to take the Falcons on their word that Devendra Banhart is present somewhere (how could he not be, having launched and/or accelerated pretty much everyone on the disc's careers?).

Still, even without Banhart's clear presence, there's a melancholy ineffability to Desert Doughnuts, a sense of loss and clouded understanding that stems partly from its conflicted radio transmission. "Desert Cathedral," one of the most ambitious pieces here, starts with a laughable theatrical interlude ("This is the desert. Who are you?" "I am a friend of the desert.") but rights itself almost immediately. The opening sequence pits reverberating guitar notes and squiggles of noise against classically-trained vocals. All of the pieces are like this, comprised of elements that float in and out of focus, never quite resolved but ephemerally beautiful as they pass by.

The disc is also unified by the repeated use of certain motifs. There's a three-based keyboard/guitar pattern that appears first in "Snakes and Tea,” then slightly altered in "Berry Metal" (an older song that first appeared on Voodo-EROS' Enlightened Family Collection), and again in "Pale Dog." "After Metal (Sound of Stars)" is a short, all-cymbal coda to "Berry Metal," and surging ocean sounds connect the brief "Ocean" to the longer, more fully developed "Disparu."

The album seems to fragment a bit as it moves past the halfway point, with shorter, atmospheric cuts breaking up the flow of songs. The two final cuts, "Disparu" and "Four Hearts" are as strong as anything else on the disc, though, the first diffuse and mysterious, the second charmingly melodic, a sing-song nursery rhyme.

In the end, the indefinite quality of Desert Doughnuts works in its favor. Without the gauzy wrapping, Metallic Falcons' feyness might seem cloying, their recurring motifs repetitive rather than evocative. The disparate pieces might not sit so comfortably together if the edges weren't a little blurry. As it is, though, this is a beautiful and atmospheric piece of music, veiled but infinitely suggestive.

By Jennifer Kelly

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