Mysterious Electrelane

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I know little about Electrelane. That's good. A sense of mystique is vital to music like this. There's a picture of a carousel on the front. That's good. I recognize the object in question. It sits on the Brighton seafront, on the south coast of England, a dim yet still glittering relic of another, perceived to be more innocent age. In the picture, the sea looks cold, miserable, not welcoming at all. That's good. It's how I recognize Brighton, how I recognize the feel and the sound and the smell of Brighton. I lived there many years. I feel I should be able to comment upon my native turf.

Electrelane disturb me. Again, this is good. The music I prefer discomfits and reassures simultaneously. Electrelane discomfit me, because there's an edge to their instrumental-led, female-created music that most bands fail to attain. Guitars are played with a certain passion. The all-enveloping Farfisa organ is struck with monotonous regularity. Off-mic noises?the odd shard of feedback, the occasional fretboard run, disembodied voices?help increase the feeling of unease. Yet threaded throughout the drone, the sound of the wind and rain beating down on a deserted Brighton seafront in wintertime, are traces of other, more familiar tunes. Nothing one could pin down, but nothing that would sound too disorientating if played in its original form at old people's homes. The 10-minute "Long Dark," for example, sounds like a million theater organs sampled and fed back through increasingly decayed loops. Like the picture on the sleeve, you can hear echoes of previous, perceived to be better times.

I know Electrelane are all female. There's a drawing of the four women, mute and wide-eyed, inside the CD booklet. Clearly, they are proud of being female: a dedication list takes in a virtual Who's Who of Popular Cultural Icons, from Kathleen Hanna to Simone de Beauvoir, from Amelia Earhart to Maureen Tucker. Again, I like this. It shows Electrelane have an instinctive grasp of who makes the more interesting art.

When I first heard Electrelane, I thought of Stereolab. This is a mistake. There's nothing gentle or kitsch about Rock It to the Moon. "Blue Straggler" may possess sweet harmonies. "Many Peaks" may possess an initial filmic, instrumental grace that will serve the individual members well when they're old and cynical and realize that the wise money is to be made soundtracking art house movies. But. That's it. Just but.

I know little about Electrelane. The final freak-out, "Mother," lasts over 23 minutes and reminds me of Quickspace?or Suicide, if I want to show my age.

I like Electrelane. They're so damn mysterious.

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