The Beans - Crane Wars
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The Beans
Crane Wars

After garnering many strange comparisons to other gropus with their Tired Snow EP release (a couple of which I addressed in my review of that release), the 5-piece Vancouver outfit simply named The Beans are back again with a 7-song, nearly hourlong musical excursion to confound yet even more people, yet surprise many others with their somewhat scattershod style. Never a group to fit neatly into one genre of music, the group has no problem mixing live instrumentation with samples, horns with drum machines, or just about any other combination. Not only that, but they're not afraid to put a 3 minute country-like track next to a sprawling 16-minute improv-style track with thundering crescendos (as they did on aforementioned release).

As one may guess from the information I gave above on Crane Wars, there are several more epic-length tracks on this release, as well as a couple tracks that are darn near radio-length (although I doubt you'll hear them probably anytime too soon). The album begins with the song "Window Y Tower" and sounds that nicely fit the album title. Although it's a bit dissonant upon first listen, the blaring, dueling trumpets battle for a minute or so before fading out into the quiet of runing water. It's a bit of an excessive opening to things, but it makes the soothing sounds that follow go down even easier.

The remainder of the track is mainly a showcase for some excellent drum and guitar-play that sometimes captures the weary sun-soaked sounds of Ennio Morricone, while at other times building to dizzying frenzies that fellow Canadians Do Make Say Think pulled off so well on their Goodbye Enemy Airship, The Landlord Is Dead release. The second track "Slow Recovery" sounds just like its title suggests, and after taking nearly the entire length of the track slowly weaving itself together, it finds itself mixing guitar and percussion with a rumbling drum machine sample (which sounds surprisingly like a loop from the more abrasive track on the 2nd disc of Aphex Twins' Selected Ambient Works Volume 2) for a rather lively close to the track.

From there, it's on to another epic-length track in "Boston RWA." After almost half a track of instrumental build up, vocals enter the mix for the first time, and when the horns start blaring alongside, it reminds one a bit of Calexico if they stretched their songs out to 12 minutes long and kept throwing in random instruments and tempos to keep the listeners more on their toes. The remainder of the album tries even more different things, whether it's the jangling piano and off-kilter rhythm (and church-like backing chorus) of "I Breathe The Air (From Other Planets)" or the slowed-down jungle beats that mix with weary guitars on the slow closer of "Hollow Stars."

Basically, you're never quite sure what you're going to get with the group, and that's part of the fun with them. Not only that, but if you like sprawling, musical landscapes that swing back and forth from quiet to loud and beautiful textures galore. It's quite a musical hodge-podge at times, and sometimes feels rather unfocused, but the looseness and subsequent spontaneity of the tracks give the album a life of its own that many studio-honed albums simply don't have. If you like the groups mentioned above, or if you're simply looking for a group that obviously has a sense of humour and a lot of fun creating music (as well as a willingness to try just about everything once), The Beans are probably your band. It's loose and interesting, and while it's not always hitting completely on the mark, it's another step up for the group.

rating: 7.2510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00