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Sparrow Orange - Hands and Knees Music

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Artist: Sparrow Orange

Album: Hands and Knees Music

Label: Noise Factory

Review date: Sep. 19, 2002

Polite, Elegaic, Depressed Electronica

Sparrow Orange's second album Hands and Knees Music is filled with gentle, almost languid electronica, polite beats given a sad, elegaic feel through carefully-applied layers of sound. Piano, floating synths like angelic voices, and minor-key melodies bring to life titles such as "i remember it all" and "somber lines for tired skys" (sic).

"to the sea" establishes the album's common approach, beginning with delicate sounds and murmuring synths with sweeping oceanic tidal sounds. After a while the beats enter, brittle and sharp, all cymbals, then a kick-thump lends it some bottom. Mid-tempo, the beats clatter on as the background sounds remain calm. This method of opening with calm textures, then bringing in the rhythm, remains the modus operandi on most of the tracks here.

"keeping it to myself" is led by a melancholy synth melody over slow clip-clopping percussion, while "rus'ti-ca'tion" plods slowly along with a shuffling beat, gentle delay effects, and crystalline synths. A low hum like planetarium music permeates the song. "robin hood" casts gentle yet insistent rhythms over a quiet guitar melody and bubbly synths, while "the sunshine" paints its picture with sequenced electronic chimes which build into a denser snare-led rhythm. It's a bit reminiscent of some DJ Shadow work, actually, in the way that the synths set the beat and the drums join in to strengthen it. The vocals are a surprise, but they blend with the music such that they're almost just another instrumental layer. Somehow the elements here boost the song in a way that is lacking elsewhere on Hands and Knees Music, lending it an energy which immediately makes it one of the most memorable songs on the album. The only complaint to level is the excessive repetition. After the same melody and identical vocal repeated for several minutes, I once again found my attention wandering.

The danger faced by this album is that the music has a distinct tendency to fade to the background. I found that I had to exercise some willpower to maintain concentration sufficiently in order to assemble this review, in fact. If you're looking for something to put on while hanging out talking, or doing something else, this would be pretty effective, because it will occasionally grab your attention, but is primarily happy loping along on its own. It's not that the songs lack charm, but they seem unable to pull themselves away from an overall feeling of lethargy, as if they're being held down by gravity. Perhaps Sparrow Orange is simply too polite.

By Mason Jones

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