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Cyann & Ben - Sunny Morning / Sweet Beliefs

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Artist: Cyann & Ben

Album: Sunny Morning / Sweet Beliefs

Label: Ever

Review date: Aug. 20, 2006

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that any new ground is broken on Sweet Beliefs, Cyann & Ben’s third full-length. In fact, the most innovative material has been reserved for the Sunny Morning EP. But an expansion has taken place, a deepening of songcraft and stylistic maturation that keeps the disc from becoming just another Cyann & Ben album.

It was a wise decision to begin the EP with “Sunny Morning”: a beautifully constructed but thinly occupied synth-driven compositional space whose sparsely repetitive vocals and ghostly guitar figurations somehow do more than just provide coherence. When the jazz-inflected cymbals and electric piano eventually kick in, the effect is quietly cathartic. The midsection of the EP shucks 'n' jives in a way that the full-length doesn't; especially interesting, even provocative, is the comparatively whimsical “Damaged Memory.” In typically Cyann & Ben waltz-time but ultimately capped with a catchy retro-electropulse for a beat, it bespeaks a tantalizing direction for the band that might initially lose a few fans but could definitely prove productive. “Room J13” is one of those tracks that could easily be dismissed as filler if it wasn’t so effective, a vast crescendo/decrescendo of swirling mayhem that whooshes by, effect-laden, with the power of a hurtling train.

Sweet Beliefs’ shortcoming is sameness, especially after the first two tracks, which are as magical as anything the band has released. “Words” exists somewhere between British and West Coast psychedelia, synth-heavy and later distorted like the former, harmonically and vocally suggestive of the latter. It provides fresh context for “Sunny Morning"; the two tracks merge seamlessly in a kind of microsuite, immensely satisfying but setting an almost unreasonably high standard. “Somewhere in the Light of Time” and the title track share a simplistically old world gestalt, the latter aided in this by something resembling accordion, the former a simple piano and vocal ballad. “Guilty” possesses a gorgeous set of chord changes, some timbral shifts and enough pregnant pauses to keep interest from flagging.

The disc ends with the glacial ebb and flow of “Sparks of Love,” an advance on the Cyann & Ben formula and a fittingly expansive summation of the group’s newly solidified style. The duo's next full-length, however, might want to follow the EP’s innovational lead.

By Marc Medwin

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