[1 November 2005]
Three albums into their career, The Double have finally released their debut record. Progressing from indistinguishable to striking, past efforts focused on feeling out an aesthetic identity. Aching with unconventional beauty and impossible grace, Loose in the Air finally establishes The Double as an entirely idiosyncratic creative entity.
Emerging underdeveloped, The Double released Loose Crochet in 2002. Recorded only as a duo, the album failed to distinguish itself from its mathrock ilk and went almost entirely unnoticed. Seeking to move beyond the minimalism of their debut and explore new sonic possibilities, the band expanded. Jeff Mcleod remained at the drums while David Greenhill swapped guitar for bass but stayed behind the microphone. Supplementing these original members were Donald Beaman on guitars and Jacob Morris on keys.
The Double’s new direction stirred some buzz about their borough and the band prepared to face these expectations on record. With recording about to get underway, the band suffered a fortuitous tragedy when a hand injury prevented Mcleod from playing drums. Rather than scrap the sessions, the band took on the limitation as a creative challenge.
Deviating from conventional percussion and production techniques, The Double arrived at an improbably successful fusion of pop pleasure and abstract sounds. While the story surrounding the albums inception earned it even more attention, Palm Fronds stood up on its own as a strikingly good record.
Of course, that triumph had its own inherent setback. If Palm Fronds was the sound of the band under unusual circumstances then their inherent identity had yet to be revealed. The constraints faced on that album may just have defined it. Freed from forced experimentation the band could quite possibly assume the nature of their namesake, aping another noted New York City band sharing an affinity for black and a baritone frontman but with much sharper suits and better haircuts.
Thankfully, The Double emerge from the shadow of Palm Fronds with the same grace that they overcame the challenge of its creation. Even in a more traditional studio setting, the band retains its dichotomous command over arty accessibility throughout Loose in the Air. The inclination to experiment comes through just as clearly as their overt hooks and firmly establishes the band in the in the fuzzy haze of Palm Fronds fits of brilliance.
Loose in the Air shares that same sonic space between the beautiful and the broken. A superficial assessment suggests something like if Interpol were as influenced by early Sonic Youth as they were by Joy Division. Delving deeper it begins to sound more like early Sonic Youth as influenced by Echo and the Bunnymen as they were by Glenn Branca. The difference is that the urge to deconstruct never escapes The Double. “Up All Night” moves from ominous to boisterous to buoyant as Black Dicey blips and bleeps build into waves of noise and then give way to bop and bounce. What begins with a burst of crashing guitars and clashing frequencies ends in angular anglo-pop. Inverting that approach, “Idiocy” starts off with rollicking heavy-handed drums driving on a lilting melody but brings in impossibly distorted guitars and piercing feedback as a stabbing accent.
Still the core of any track on Loose in the Air is something just as alluring as it is avant-garde. Whereas Sonic Youth might be defined as the beauty of a bottle breaking, what The Double do is more akin to piecing together something pretty from the shards. This amalgamation of smooth and jagged fragments yields staggering songs that are far from uniform. A multitude of tonal templates are drawn on from the shattering to the sublime. “Icy” plods along with sunny bursts of organ into an elated Elvis Costello ending. Swirling autoharp with electronic flourish and intricate cymbal work, “On Our Way” assumes a more mellow approach. “Ripe Fruit” takes that feeling even further with reverb wet percussion and breathy counterpoints smoldering in sparse contrast to the onslaught of sound unleashed over the rest of the record.
If anything really differentiates Loose in the Air from its predecessor, it’s that the more conventional recording process has the band sounding a little less leftfield. This isn’t necessarily a drawback because any oddness excised from Loose in the Air is exchanged for a new sense of synergy. Bolstered by collectively powerful performances, The Double really sounds like a band and less of an audio experiment. This progress bodes well for the The Double and makes Loose in the Air something worth seeking out for any fan of adventurous pop.