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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 185 - 10/12/11

Sacred Harp
Window's A Fall
Trust Me Records

Norwegian quartet Sacred Harp's debut EP from 2009 is one of those perfectly executed little releases. Every song is strong and each contributes to the whole. Its simple, resonant songcraft, heavy on atmosphere, won me over and I've been eagerly awaiting this album ever since. While Window's A Fall doesn't quite deliver on the promise of that superb release, it's an engaging listen, with some gorgeous moments.

The basic template of their sound has diversified, but the most successful songs are those that tread the same sonic ground as their first release. I'm reminded most often of Portishead's self-titled second album, with their searing torch songs set to stun. "Julie", in particular, is just beautiful. However, as a complete artistic statement, the album doesn't quite hold up. So, what went wrong?

My guess is that the band reached a creative impasse while writing the songs for this record. While their basic slowcore template worked well over the course of an EP, you have to possess Low's sleight of hand to pull off all that weighty, glacial stuff for an album's duration - and even Low have been mixing it up for their last few full-lengths. When Sacred Harp deviate from their template, the results are decidedly mixed.

The dance-punk rush of "Red/Three" is not normally the kind of thing that turns me on, but here it works. The real mis-step comes later in the piece, on penultimate track "Horses of Sophia". Jessica Sligter's florid spoken-word narrative simply sounds juvenile. Spoken-word stuff is tricky to pull off at the best of times, but when it's littered with expletives and not delivered in your native tongue... I'll give her points for bravery, but the overall effect is rather embarrassing. Surely one of the other band members could have pulled her up on this? It's a shame because it tarnishes what is otherwise a strong release.

Copyright © 2011 Tim Clarke e-mail address

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