Review: The Loom – Teeth (2011)
Last May, Brooklyn’s The Loom stopped by Madison with their fellow friend Christopher Paul Stelling to perform a rather multifaceted set that didn’t quite content itself in the folk genre. Drums were markedly more uptempo. Guitars quavered into psychedelia. Teeth is out via Crossbill Records, encapsulating these diverse dips from genre to genre, spreading influences around without muddying the sound. You know when you put in a record and expect to hear variation, yet you’re stuck on an endless plateau looking for a way off? The Loom thankfully find variation that’s refreshing and a step above groups that dare dabble in alt-country or folk.
The 10-track full length gets underway with “With Legs” of which its banjo plucks could betray the careless listener into a the well-worn trail of alt-country or folk. A light snare roll marches forward over supporting vocals from Sydney Price keeping company to John Fanning’s calmly plaintive vocals. To the skeptic, it’s enough to step away from the album and move along to the next name on the blogroll. However, cast pity on those who don’t continue as tambourine picks the tempo up and carries it into “The Middle Distance.”
The drums are quite the highlight on the album, as they were at The Project Lodge when the group first came to my attention. “The Middle Distance” is a jogging tempo that keeps the current within its banks with Fanning’s nearly spoken word delivery. It is not the snide, tongue-in-cheek delivery akin to Craig Finn, but of an weary individual who offers advice along your route who, upon later discovery, you should have heeded their counsel. “And so for every one of those past loves, go on and shed a single tear and then move on. And still don’t let that middle distance take you down.” The tone is decidedly rock, with a guitar with fuzzed remoteness cast aside edging into psychedelia. It fits, leading into a plucked pattern introducing “Helen” that draws an impression of Nick Drake’s “At the Chime of a City Clock” before fading into a trellis of trumpet and banjo.
The rest of Teeth is an amalgamation of various music styles distinctly employed. It rarely becomes indistinct. “In Your Doldrums” confuses with the mixture of piano and guitar nearly halfway through the piano as an instrumental bridge, perhaps more a distraction from the piano and trumpet that refocus 3/4 of the way in, then drop back for a lovely dual-vocal repetition. Yet contrast it with the relatively barren “The First Freeze” and all is forgiven. Nearly solely sung by former vocalist Sydney Price, Fanning emphasizes notes that benefit from his similarly heavy voice. Distinctly country, it’s a sullenly sweet duet.
Brooklyn is awash in talent, untapped and overly marketed. The Loom are confidently balanced, a self-aware and self-conscious group that manages to borrow pieces from music without caving in to definitions. Moving forward, it would be nice to hear a song stripped to its core, either vocals and brass or instrumental to highlight the musical talent within. Till then, if you’re in the mood for a cross-genre group that succeeds in distinctive, poetic tales that froths cautiously into psychedelic, country and folk, give The Loom a listen. Teeth has enough in there for many of us to sink our ears into.