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Meanderthals

Desire Lines

(Smalltown Supersound; US: 12 May 2009; UK: 18 May 2009)

The term “desire lines” apparently refers to the frequent routes which so-called “meanderthals” take in preference to prescribed paths. For example, grass may become worn away by the feet of people who cut across it rather than stick to a designed walkway. If that concept sounds organic and free, on closer inspection it may be lazy and habitual. It reminds me that in June, 1958, the first edition of Internationale Situationniste included a map showing “The movements of a student in the 16th arrondissement of Paris over the course of a year”. This was probably a joke, but the diagram of the cumulative wanderings of the young person illustrated the problem with repetition: a depressing series of overlaid lines obliterating much of the map. 

Half a century later, Meanderthals’ Desire Lines seems trapped in a similarly narrow terrain. This first release by a combination of Idjut Boys and Rune Lindbaek comes with claims that it’s an intriguing mix of dub, folk, prog, krautrock, and West-Coast influences. During the cinematic sweep of the excellent title track, I agree, but too often Meanderthals move nowhere in particular at an anonymous mid-pace. Hopes that opening track “Kunst or Ars” would depict some kind of wicked anagrammatic pun, if not dashed from the first pretty notes, were smothered by the inevitable rolling beat. “1-800-288-SLAM” might have been more accurately titled “1-800-288-SIAM” as vaguely Eastern overtones arrive, but the slam never does. Maybe the joke is that Desire Lines is meant to sound pedestrian and aimless. The album has clever interplay between the beats and various instruments and feels like a return to territory Ultramarine pioneered back in 1991. Since then artists such as Rhythm & Sound and Burial have mapped new intriguing landscapes. “Collective Fetish” exemplifies the overall disappointment, hinting at darkness but ultimately resembling a relaxation track for a hip, overpriced spa.

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