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Beans: Crane Wars

Jason Thompson


Crane Wars

Label: Zum
US Release Date: 2001-06-15

Beans. They're from Canada, don't you know. They make music. Sort of. I think they might be artsy. Then again, they might just be full of it. Crane Wars is the kind of album you put on to play along with those little nature sound-effects boxes that you can buy at Target. Or maybe it's something you'll never put on.

I love albums like this because they instantly make me ask, "Who the hell was this recorded for and did it really need to be released to the public?" I can't imagine stamping out more than 100 copies of something like this. Some people dig this kind of avant-garde sound collage/kinda musical/not-really-much-of-anything-to-really-listen-to product, though. I don't. Take the first song here, for example. It's called "window y tower" and starts off with about a minute-and-a-half's worth of nothing but trumpets bleating off-key. Then the sound effects start. Oh yeah. Great. Sound effects. A little babbling brook or stream or something. Then the jam-band-like trippy and dull guitar lines slide into the mix with some semblance of a beat in the background, and then an accordion from out of nowhere. Yawn.

You should probably know that Beans are trying to sell this album to fans of Brian Eno, Ennio Morricone, Scenic, Do Make Say Think, and "good music" overall. I'd hate to know what the group's idea of bad music is because they're standing in that very line. The fact that it takes five people (Damon Henry on bass, Andy Herfst on drums and "loops", Ida Nilsen on trumpet, piano and accordion, and Tygh Runyan and Stefan Udell on guitar and vocals) is even more mind-boggling. I can see it now: "That's right, Damon. You hold the trickling water button down when Ida blows on her trumpet as poorly as possible".

Mommy, it hurts. Make it stop. Even the little blurbs in the CD booklet are annoying. "Let the glue set this hacked chair straight re-align its complex nature hearts make great performers of sitters nature hearts inspire action of sitters my eyes are sunken burning coals cool them hollow stars cool them to draw my tears from outer space". Wha? Did you say something? Sorry, I dozed off for a minute there.

All right, I'll give Beans credit for the second track here called "slow recovery" which does feature some nice languid guitar lines and sleepy-like grooves. But the 11-plus minute "boston rwa", complete with chainsaw sound effects and general shambolic band interplay, is entirely unnecessary. But the band must want to make this album an endurance test, as "lasa-ma in pace" is nearly ten minutes long and features more spaced-out guitar with sound effects, and "hollow stars" stretches over six minutes with even more dragging guitar and those awful lyrics that I quoted for you earlier. Crane Wars may only be seven tracks long, but when each tune basically creates a sameness out of nothingness, then that's about six songs too many.

So I suppose if you're into listless noodling around on various instruments for a little under an hour, then by all means have a crack at Beans and their Crane Wars. Otherwise, run and hide from this one. For if you listen to it, you may be either be placed in a coma or a nuthouse after it's over. I'm just glad I survived the few times I had to give it a spin.

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