The Cansecos
The Cansecos
2003
A-



for a label with only three artists, Upper Class Records seems to be creating a small underground clamor. First coming to attention late last year with the release of The Russian Futurists’ Let’s Get Ready to Crumble, Upper Class has unleashed another unapologetically multifaceted gem in The Cansecos’ self-titled debut. Where Matthew Hart’s Russian Futurists soaked in the rays of the Beach Boys and revisited their summery melodies with shimmering bedroom glee, Gareth Jones and Bill Halliday, the duo behind The Cansecos, invoke the plastic glamour of the eighties, musically alluding to such mainstays as Depeche Mode and Duran Duran. Recorded between 2000 and 2002, the album overcomes its own reference points with an ingenious pop reconfiguration that breeds bizarre new life into each consecutive song while never losing track of its melodic marrow.

Woozy with electronic bliss and chomping at the bit with bottom-heavy beats and pummeling drum machines, each song is driven by a modern stomp. Churning electronic tones and ancient unearthed machinery are set to their own time-insensitive awakenings, like hundreds of chiming alarm clocks set to erupt at various times across a four-minute stretch. This cacophony expresses a peculiar beauty that reminds me of the traces left by volcanic lava as it stretches its own path down the mountainside; a classic sense of calm in the after-math, a moment of clarity in the reminiscent heartbeat of the inconceivable.

Atop the maniacal percussion and miswired robotic frenzy, the album’s only consistent presences, The Cansecos progresses without seeming to move. The sly shifts in sound go almost unnoticed until you’ve heard the album several times. The propulsive churn and bouncing electronics of “What It Was You Said” drift into the static hum and warm woodsy hush of “A Common State of Being,” only to crack open again on the strong tocking beat and stabs of synthetic strings on “Blue Whale.” The pace is altered and slowed by sunstroke at times, gathering its breath for the night-roughened grind that lies ahead. Each track is exactly where it needs to be.

With this experimental backdrop, Jones and Halliday sing in a manner that alternates between menace and earnest appeal. Often sung through a faint electronic screen that bristles the edges of their voices and sometimes recalls the vocals of Simon Le Bon, they intensify through a knowing detachment and mutate to the needs of each song. They stand firm against the cold aggression of “Stop, Breathe, Repeat” but glow in the jubilant bounce of “The Shore.” The interplay between the two vocalists enhances the album’s diversity, as they trade verses or raise themselves in unison above a well-muscled beat to create dance songs for the post-ravers.

With their masterfully eclectic self-titled debut, The Cansecos have upped the ante on future Upper Class releases. About the need to infuse a greater understanding into the convoluted pressures of the present, the poet John Ashbery once wrote “So this tangle of impossible resolutions and irresolutions:/The desire to have fun, to make noise, and so to/Add to the already all-but-illegible scrub forest of graffiti on the shithouse wall.” If The Russian Futurists was the exultant white-wash to cover up all of life’s smudges, The Cansecos have peeled back the paint to bare the graffiti and add a spray-mark of their own.


Reviewed by: Derek Miller
Reviewed on: 2004-02-09
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