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Album Review

Continuing to explore the generally subtler side of their music in a new century, Alison and Jim Shaw extend their increasing interest in electronic music on 2008's self-titled effort, as was readily heard on Particles & Waves, into an even more refined approach. Keyboards are ultimately the lead instrument throughout much of the album, which in combination with Jim's drumming still holding a sense of restrained, looming power, and Alison's familiar vocals now sweeter than they have yet been, create something close to a new Cranes sound altogether. It's certainly no radical reinvention — piano has been a lead instrument for Cranes as far back as "Tomorrow's Tears" in 1991 — but as a steady evolution, hearing the near-Beach Boys haze and swirl of the arrangement on "Worlds" and the sense of hidden depths on "Collecting Stones," it's a quite striking blend of past and present. It's not that guitars have completely disappeared, certainly, but often they are presented as extra shading or a sudden alteration of a performance. "Wonderful Things" is perhaps the most classically Cranes song in the older vein, but in a calmer mode, the guitars providing rhythm more than anything else. Elsewhere, "Feathers" is almost a post-punk tribute of sorts, thanks not only to the guitar but the very New Order-like bass, while "Move Along" is another standout on a fine album.


Formed: 1988 in Portsmouth, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Cranes were one of the major trance-pop/shoegaze groups of the early '90s, combining ethereal vocals and melodies with loud, droning guitars. Cranes were formed by brother and sister Jim (drums) and Alison Shaw (vocals) in 1988 in Portsmouth, England; guitarist Mark Francombe and bassist Matt Cope joined the band two years later. The group independently released its first album, Fuse, on cassette in 1990; a small local label released Self-Non-Self the same year to good reviews. Both sets of music...
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