Review of In The Lens [12k1086]

Brainwashed (US)

For their fourth record, the duo of Kane Ikin and Paul Fiocco took a different approach, and decided to revisit fragments of previous recordings that lay forgotten on various hard drives and cassette tapes for a multitude of years.  Beginning with these elements, they then reworked the material and recorded new parts, making these recordings a sort of hybrid of unreleased works and new material.  Because of that, In The Lens may at times feel more like a collection of songs rather than a full-fledged album, but that is no major detriment considering how well these compositions are executed.

My first impression of this album was how it almost felt like a collection of miniatures, given most of the song’s relatively brief durations (only three clock in at over four minutes).  Working in the context of these shorter songs, it allows the duo to experiment with a multitude of techniques that, while perhaps not likely to work as well in a lengthier composition, manage to be extremely effective in its more concise format.  For example, most of “Left” seems to be constructed from plucked acoustic guitar strings and what sounds like a person writing with a pencil.  “Dancer” resembles a collection of bass string plucks and ambient space, with maybe a bit of horn tossed in for good measure.  The structure is simple and fragmented, and over a longer duration it could end up a scatter-shot mess, but at a succinct minute and a half, it is excellent.

The duo also does an exceptional job at working with their diverse instrumentation to create extremely dynamic pieces that are simultaneously recognizable and yet entirely alien.  “Late Night Games With Her” seems to be constructed largely of chimes and guitar, but both are utilized in quite unconventional ways, and when blended with more ambiguous sounds, it never seems to stand still in its brief three minute duration. The slightly messy “Porcelain Blue” is a goulash of sounds, with clean, gentle tones and maybe a woodwind or two thrown in.  Even with its intentional abstraction, there is a delicateness to it that cannot be denied.

A few pieces stand out strongly as being more structured and composed in nature.  While there is still an overall loose structure to “From All The Broken Pieces”, Ikin and Fiocco bring in more traditional bits of melody and rhythm to create something that feels more like a conventional song, yet still fits in nicely with the remainder of the album.  Similarly, the concluding “Canvas” is comparably lush, layered with strummed guitar and keyboard.  There is more instrumentation present, but as expected, it is not easily identifiable, yet entirely captivating.

The overall vibe given off by In The Lens is a sort of abstract take on late night mellow jazz music.  While Fiocco and Ikin’s use of what appears to be piano and upright bass throughout these 13 pieces make for an obvious linkage, there is a somber, but not sad mood throughout.  For the whole length of the record, there is a calmness to it, but never one that becomes flat or dull.  There is a definite sense of relaxation to be had, but not in a trite, clichéd sort of new age way.

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