Label: Brassland Release date: 24/05/10 Link Official Site What with all your Owen Palletts and Sam Amidons and Sufjans making what can be called true ‘chamber pop’ (IE chamber music disguised as pop), the chances for something new are abundant. Enter Clogs, Bryce Dessner’s other project, and (until now) an all instrumental project otherwise spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist Padma Newsome. And while the classical elements can be jarring, Clogs have managed to make something so unique that you can hardly fault them. Barring the sometimes sadly overwrought vocals, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton wouldn’t be out of place on a few end-of-year lists. Sure the replacing of a bass with a bassoon just screams Williamsburg hipster, and sure most of the guitars are delicate and acoustic, but when you get down to brass tacks, Newsome has a genuine ear for composition. The interplay between instruments and vocal melodies are all pleasant, theoretically sound, and a nice blend of olde tyme Baroque and modern chamber in the style of Nico Muhly or some of John Adams’ smaller works. While opening track ‘Cocodrillo’ emphasizes the use of cyclical structure, the rest of the album focuses on more madrigal style structures, utilizing the operatic soprano or Newsome’s own earnest voice. But aye, there’s the rub! Those operatic vocals have times when they seem so precious or, as stated above, overwrought that it’s hard to enjoy the sections with singing. 'The Owl of Love’ suffers from too many soaring high G’s and an annoying overuse of the words “breathing in/out” and mars the album’s flow, especially considering the brooding and much more forward moving ‘Adages Of Cleansing’ gets pushed back. It’s easy to see where songs and moments like ‘The Owl of Love’ fit in, and how they could become a person’s favourite moments or even defining moments for the new vocal raison d'être of Clogs, but given what is delayed and how they are performed, these moments of melodrama often become more irksome than uplifting or emotionally manipulative. And therein lies the issue with this disc, for instead of utilizing those moments as catalysts for a change of pace or flow, or even a break from the softer and more downplayed nature of the pieces, they seem to be bandied about to shout ‘Hey look! We have vocals now!’ It would be akin to Sam Amidon using a waterphone on every song of I See The Sign…or like Mount Eerie using a sampler. While Clogs seem to shine with their earlier works, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton is enjoyable and better than benign. If nothing else, the ghost of classical is one I welcome and can love with this band. Dessner is sure to continue his good year, especially with The National’s new album and this one receiving acclaim, and I’m sure Newsome will continue to write music for Clogs. Now if he’ll ditch some of these tricks and find a better card to play, we’ll be in great business. Photobucket