ABOVE AS BELOW
Up there with the very best of them CWNN manage to turn the air around you inside out with duplicitous ease, the comforting harbouring dangers, the lethal turning sublime. Like the best detective intrigues and mysteries of overheard conversations, tiny nuances trigger the imagination. They have the artistic maturity you expect as the background for an adv ert for your Sunday papers, except that, having them on your table, you’d find the reason it was so heavy is the bundle contains the severed head of your vicar.
I don’t mean to imply the music or ideas offer any kind of brutal shocks. Erik Stein (main vocals/piano) and Jon Boux (main piano/vocals) play things with a defter touch, instruments and voices often glowing embers. For those who recognise people from other bands I should also point out they have special guests involved. Plenty of wispy vocals across eight tracks by Kelli Ali (Sneaker Pimps), Luc van Lieshout and Bruce Geduldig (Tuxedomoon) are there (bonus points for Luc as he plays flugelhorn, proving it isn’t a made up instrument at all), John Ellis playing guitar on one song, Meg Maryatt with vocals on another.
‘One Kiss, Then Home’ has the standard mellow wash of airy emotional ambivalence and ochre dashes of a solemn intensity. ‘Hope Is Existence’ is a modern cocktail of swirling atmospherics, brushed drums and saucily traipsing keys, piano waiting for the dreamy vocals to close their lyrical eyes before purring contentedly. ‘Maitre D-Day’ is a simple enough picture of sexual tension mingled with danger and regret but it’s the way the quietness seems to almost vibrate which lifts these easy moments, and I’m sure she’s a very nice girl really.
‘Drowned’ has their traditional dovetailed vocal/keyboard waltz going, lilting vocals circling the timid doleful keys, unusually comforting. ‘Raise A Glass’ has clever wordplay rolling down the supple inclines of the piece, with a sweet ‘bop’ ending, whereupon a stylishly idle ‘Everyone’s The Butt Of The Joke’ sees the keys flower in slow motion. Spoken word weirdness with ambient accompaniment called ‘Losing My Elan’ breaks the spell, but they shuffle back on track like an old steam train after a wash and brush up into a slinky ‘Today’s The Day (They Knew Would Come)’ with a rising breathy chorus and sinuous grace glowing from every pore.
‘Numbers’ is emptier and apparently concerns Holocaust revisionism but it isn’t easy to catch the words, something which affects other songs, you just gradually have to let the words seep into your consciousness and with some it takes time. The curious, drifting instrumental ‘As Below’ bleats delicately but ‘What’s Certain’ fidgets on a synth pulse dealing with CWNN’s ever-present appreciation of romance as roulette. ‘Shake Hands With The Devil’ is more hushed drama, plaintive and gutted, while ‘Idi’s Admin’ has quite an unexpected Sisters feel to it, a nervous lullaby waddling along. The hazily pretty ‘Secondary Sexual Characteristics’ sees us out, wilting intentionally.
So there you have it, a record of consistently beautiful moments and enthralling notions which has an almost looser feel at times, but an even stronger effect. I think that’s called skill.