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Wings of Joy

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Album Review

From the quiet, descending strings and woodwinds at the start of "Watersong," which launches Cranes' first proper full-length album, things are at once in sync with, and far removed from, the deep murk of the group's earliest days. The gripping, chilling atmosphere that Cranes dwell in hasn't moved an inch, but in terms of approach, it shows that on the (very well) self-produced Wings of Joy, the quartet has continued to expand its palette. One thing to note is in the album credits: Matt Cope may have been initially invited in for live bass playing, but it's Alison Shaw who plays the shuddering, ominous deep notes throughout, and effectively at that. Check out her opening work on "Living and Breathing." It's a simple enough pattern, but delivered in such a context that it immediately conjures up a nervous, threatening mood. Jim Shaw's relentless percussion, never overbearing but always moving with a stately, ritualistic tinge, and his piano and keyboard arrangements — elegant and haunting at once — set the rest of the tone. His guitar, along with Mark Francombe and Cope's credited work, adds everything from brisk, gently creepy acoustic touches to vicious electric snarl. Add Alison Shaw's almost too wistfully calm and sweet singing — just missing out on easy interpretation, but suggesting so much via delivery — and the result is what most goth music, or any music with a sense of shadows and doom, aims for but generally misses. With songs like the epic "Adoration" and the gentler "Tomorrow's Tears" already signaling the careful variety that dominates the album thanks to their previous appearance on EPs, the new material takes center stage here. "Starblood" is the most flat-out disturbing track, with Jim Shaw's slow-paced, pounding drums and Alison Shaw's guitar wailing slammed up against cold slabs of feedback. The album as a whole is a beautiful, if unsettling, piece of work.

Biography

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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Wings of Joy, Cranes
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