The Fiery Furnaces experiments with a grandma, Imogen Heap vaults from pop, and Cue creates delicate dance music
The Fiery Furnaces
Most tracks follow the piano’s lead, with synthetic accents perforating the atmospheric terrain. But the real star is Heap’s voice, alternately wispy and commanding, crescendoing effortlessly between moods. “Hide and Seek,” which is more of a spoken word piece than a song, exudes numbness as Heap coos her way through its vaporous, nonsensical lyrics. One of the more danceable tunes, “Clear the Area,” layers vocal harmonies over streams of chiming keyboards and wafts of airy distortion.
Most other tracks are more lyrically direct, with simple themes and titles like, “I Am in Love with You” or “Goodnight and Go.” While it may lack complexity, Speak makes a good car disc, as its sweet monotony mimics the dreamy, metronomic passage of blurring highway cones and starry headlights.
That’s the position in which Austin-based quartet Cue finds itself. These semi-frequent Pilot Light guests make instrumental symphonies that tend to fall under the somewhat arbitrary banner of post-rock. Cue follows in the tradition of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai and Austin scene-mates Explosions in the Sky, blending elaborate musicianship with grandiose emotive soundscapes.
At first there’s a certain sense of the formulaic. That’s almost a given, considering the band emulates the post-rock pattern of slow, peaceful guitars that escalate into a frenzied wall of sonic chaos. But Cue does it so well that it doesn’t really matter.
Likewise, Cue more than manages to put its own spin on things. The addition of piano, violin and glockenspiel to these songs, as well as varied, sometimes abrupt tempo changes, frees the band up to be itself.
The resulting dynamic produces short opuses that dive and soar. Cue sooths with its soft, guitar-driven melodies, nearly lulling you to sleep with the interplay of low-key bass and melancholic violin arrangements. Then, slowly, the pressure builds, often following the lead of Jason Brister’s frantic drumming. The frenzied instrumentation fans in multiple directions, yet ultimately never loses control. Instead Cue succeeds in its delicate dance, entwining tumultuous instrumentals that amaze, instead of overpowering one another.