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.