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Julian Fane - Our New Quarters

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Artist: Julian Fane

Album: Our New Quarters

Label: Planet Mu

Review date: Jul. 17, 2007

Technology changes everything. For instance, technology made it possible for Julian Fane to trade stocks minute-by-minute on the NASDAQ from Vancouver, just like the big boys at Morgan Stanley's proprietary trading desk...though maybe minus the cigars. Then technology also made it possible for him to say, "Fuck day trading...I want to make music full time," turning the same computer firepower into a home recording studio. He made underground electronic music under pseudonyms like Aardvark Interface and Taoist Blockade, then released his first full-length Special Forces in 2004. It was a completely solo, home-produced effort that drew comparisons to Radiohead and Sigur Ros. Now with Our New Quarters, his sound has grown even more lush and orchestral, embellished with grand sweeping crescendos and achingly melancholy acoustic breaks.

All of which is maybe a roundabout way of saying that Julian Fane's second album Our New Quarters doesn't sound like a bedroom recording...not at all. It's large in scale, immaculately produced and extravagantly ambitious.

The album starts in restrained frenzy, its title track opening with a furious build of vibrating electric guitar and, underneath, a nearly placid series of guitar chords. Fane's voice - and this is where most of the Radiohead comparisons come from - is high and a bit thin. The cut sounds completely organic and rock-based, though supernaturally clean and clear; it's high-end, producer-driven rock music, very similar to the kinds of sounds that Bono and Thom Yorke pay tens of thousands a dollar a day to record. "The Moon Is Gone" plays the same tricks but with even better results, building arena style climaxes out of heavily reverb'd vocals and synthy, Cure-like keyboards. Only a certain dreamy indistinctness keeps it from sounding completely live and collaborative; it the best big rock song on the disc. "Among the Missing," late in the album, shoots for the same grandeur, but doesn't quite achieve it. The climaxes feel forced and distorted, the soft romantic string intervals too sweet.

Other cuts are more overtly electronic. "New Faces" is built on a cool, minimal techno-beat, skittering over piano chords and synthesized sound washes, while "Youth Cadet" has an eerie, not-quite-naturalistic sheen to it, a slush of cymbals rasping over something that sounds like a calliope crossed with steel drums. "Rattle"'s heavy beat spits and stutters, machine-like, a much-needed brace to Fane's high, drifting vocals.

There is one song that fits reasonably well into the bedroom recording genre. The lovely "Downfall" strips down to just piano and Fane's keening, emotionally expressive voice. Fane does amazing things with technology...and he's even pretty good without it.

By Jennifer Kelly

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