Friday, October 12, 2012

Album Review: Graph Rabbit - Snowlind

Album Rating: A
If my recent obsession with this record proves anything, it's the virtues of a good press release. About two weeks ago I was sitting here at my computer, amply sifting through a batch I'd been sent. Nothing really stood out. There was some wishy-washy pop punk, lots of landfill indie and the odd intellectual electronica project I couldn't be arsed to put my mind to. Nope, not much at all; except that is for a modest introduction to a Brooklyn duo who went by the name of Graph Rabbit. It was brisk, informative, vaguely namechecked a bunch of awesome artists (Wilco, Bjork, Sigur Ros, etc) and best of all provided a link to the band's debut single at the bottom.

Mildly interested, I was redirected to the video for "Only Fields," and for the next seven minutes found myself lost in a heavenly haze of enchanting sonic beauty. Come its conclusion, I spent a good 30 seconds staring blankly into space, flabbergasted by what I'd just heard and hopelessly attempting to make sense of it all in my peaceful, sedated mind. It seemed that amidst all the debris, I'd been granted access to a truly precious gem, and having regained my composure I immediately set about acquiring the group's debut album.

It seemed almost unfair to judge it against such an astonishing individual track, but to my sheer bewilderment Snowblind not only met expectations but comprehensively exceeded them. Built around the concept of a character wandering through a blissful snowscape and repeatedly falling under its sleep-inducing spell, this is a record perfectly suited to its other-worldly theme; presenting a stark and harrowing narrative that's quite staggering coming from a pair of novices. Rife in both confidence and conviction, Austin Donohue and Shy Kedmi have seemingly found the perfect equilibrium between the dreamy scenery of Beach House and the ambient wonder of Jonsi and co, and what's more add a healthy dose of Thom Yorke for good measure. The only bum note in its 36-minute runtime is "Butterscotch," a song which in any other context would most likely represent a moment of stirring introspective elegance. Here, its effect is more akin to a bomb going off during a public memorial, but while that brashness breaches the LP's otherwise seamless flow the rest of its material is of such implausible quality it's difficult to remember - let alone forgive - that one naïve misstep.

For all the analog synths, bells and scattered dabblings of folk, the overwhelming aura of Snowblind is one of startling simplicity. This approach is epitomised in its two most distinctive features: Donohue's ethereal falsetto croon and the punctuated chime of glockenspiel, both of which echo through the amassed tension, reveling in their self-imposed isolation. Nowhere is this more evident than on "Blackwood Tree," which sets their dominance against a bed of eerie bobbling synth and background jingles to genuinely stunning effect. It's a similar story on "Falling Snow," which lends their charity to a notably more upbeat melody which could easily double-over as a calmative lullaby.

I'm still struggling to come to terms with it to be honest; the fact that two practically unknown musical newcomers have crafted a piece of such dazzling vision and accomplishment. What's even less easy to take is the likelihood it'll fade into obscurity - gone before thousands upon thousands of potential suitors even get the chance to behold its consummate glory. That would be a travesty, and we should do everything in our power to prevent it from materialising. Please, don't let Graph Rabbit fall under your radar. Listen to Snowblind. Buy it. Spread the word. Attention is the very least these guys deserve.


Snowblind is out now. You can stream it in its entirety over at AOL, and purchase a physical copy on the band's official website.



1. My Name
2. Blackwood Tree
3. Butterscotch
4. White Birds
5. Make It Stop
6. Falling Snow
7. Only Fields
8. Whiteout

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