Old Canes – Feral Harmonic

Old Canes – Feral Harmonic

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Overpowering guitar riffs, noisy percussion, raw vocal work – things you’d never expect from a conventional folk album, but something that Old Canes has attempted with their newest release, Feral Harmonic.

Overwhelming might be the perfect word to describe this release. In a very weird sense, it is emotional and apathetic in the same breath; there appear some very artistic parts, and others that just seem to be trying too hard. At its heart, Old Canes’ newest release is pure, typical Americana instrumentation and song constructs, but sonically the basics might be lost within the wall of sound that comes screaming through the speakers. Feral Harmonic seems to offer a stab at what could be compared to Neutral Milk Hotel, but with a more folk-centered approach.

From the first track, plainly named “Intro,” to the last, Feral Harmonic offers little shelter from its sonic onslaught – which is concerning, because there are definitely a few musical gems that could have and should have been capitalized on. However with all of this said, there is some intriguing quality that draws the listener in. Even within the storm of sound, there is definitely a spark of genius in each song. Maybe the rawness accentuates the genius? The impoverished sound only adds to the honesty of each song, communicating to the listener in ways that a well polished song would fall short – a concept covered in “Trust,” where a harmonized vocal line cries: you see the dirt and the grain. No bets on whether this production style was actually done for that specific purpose, but it surely evokes an emotional response and it seemed very deliberate.

The even more emotional sections of this album are found in the softer moments. The way the band juxtaposes the more upbeat vehement songs with softer, more reflective tunes – even though these don’t happen quite as often – is beautiful, and offers a refreshing change of pace. The docile parts are characterized by a more thoughtful instrumentation, a string section or a simple banjo line, covered by simple strums or picking on a guitar, easily contrasting the upbeat and driving movement of the other tracks. These moments of subtleness are especially interesting because they seem to move away from the general direction the album is taking. Absolving from the obvious sound patterns of the rest of the album might seem like a con, especially seeing that there are only a few tracks of this nature, but it proves to be a good choice, and by sticking with the raw sound, even the softer parts flow well with the album.

Feral Harmonic, while not an album of the year, surely has something to offer, if given a chance. Once the original sin of production quality is overcame, or looked at as a vehicle for honest songwriting, the album is allowed to shine. Lyrically it is not too thoughtful, but not overly simplistic. The vocal parts are written as the rest of the album is; honest, raw and a bit messy, but this only adds a sense of beauty. Feral Harmonic is just as the title professes, wild and unkempt, but its uncivilized nature makes it a decent debut for Old Canes.

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Comments

  1. palamino says:

    I feel like you didn’t “get it” in the first paragraph of your review. Then you started to kinda “get it” in the middle by saying, “Maybe the rawness accentuates the genius” and then in the end, I am left thinking that maybe you didn’t “get it” with your phrase about production quality. A little bipolar in your review but you do touch on some important aspects. Lo-fi is kinda the point here…and it is being utilized to add to the energy, to add to the mood and emotion, not take away (refer to interviews with frontman Chris Crisci on production). I see nothing forced about it…in fact i see the opposite….an organic album that ebbs and tides but is a definite wave of triumph over the listener by the end. The “onslaught of sound” is intentional, and I feel, perfectly intense. I don’t think there is any real comparison to NMH, except that they both use a variety of instruments in an indie-folk style. Additionally, i would highly recommend looking at Old Canes first album which came out in 2005. It is heartbrakingly beautiful while keeping you dancing or throwing your fist in the air the entire time. Feral Harmonic is not the debut. There is actual precidence for the style. But in a nutshell…Old canes is about.the beauty of juxtoposition.

  2. theloafca says:

    terrible review. I like this album. But, as the comment before me notes, it seems like you just did not “get it” and tried to cover this fact with some objective and other over generalized statements about the album.
    Rawness and organic production was the intent.
    Also … not a debut. This is the Old Canes second album.

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