The Cynic EP tends to fire on all cylinders when it’s more musically upbeat and veers away from certain trip hop genre trappings.
California’s Sister Crayon attempts to reach into the future by paradoxically peering into and sounding like the past, on at least two fronts. For one, the group has a very trip hoppy sound, which will have listeners grappling with early Portishead and Tricky comparisons. Secondly, their latest offering, the Cynic EP, is a bit of a concept piece about lead singer Terra Lopez’s absentee father: “Swallow my years / As well as this anger / Where does this time go? / I was a child once,” offers “Meager Leavings”. So, conceptually, the EP holds together rather well, and Lopez has a swooping voice that will enrapt you and hold you in her thrall – it is something that, as the song “Other” would put it, “linger(s) in subtle doses.” However, the sonic offerings are a bit on the hit-and-miss side, and the sometimes chilled out vibe (which is strange for a short album about seething) leads to a sound that seems both boring and familiar.
However, there are a few stand-out tracks. The loopy bass riff and hip-hop leanings of “Headline” goes down well because it is so different than the rest of the mini-album, and “Floating Heads” has a head nodding-inducing beat. Unfortunately, this EP crawls to a halt on its middle track, “Meager Leavings”, which may induce listeners to doze off and focus their attention elsewhere. And the title track, while somewhat appealing once its throw-back trippy sound kicks in with what appears to be a vinyl sourced drum loop, starts out with a bit of a drone, which is an apt way of setting up this EP’s faults. That said, don’t be cynical about this statement, just be a bit on the skeptical side. As noted above, its thread of emotion gives the EP a theme that holds together rather well and raises the impression of the disc; it’s just that a couple of the songs are skippable, which is not really a feeling you want to leave listeners with on such a short piece. Still, fans who are jonesing for something new out of Portishead (and we all know how long it can take for that British group to release albums) will find something to enjoy here, and anyone with any simmering dad issues will rage alongside Lopez. It’s just that the Cynic EP tends to fire on all cylinders when it’s more musically upbeat and veers away from certain trip hop genre trappings, which makes it an interesting yet somewhat flawed piece of work that could have used more looking ahead to a new sound rather than looking backwards and recycling.