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Crescent: By the Roads and the Fields

Ryan Potts


By the Roads and the Fields

Label: Fat Cat
US Release Date: 2003-08-12
UK Release Date: 2003-07-14

From a seemingly extraterrestrial planet, Fat Cat Records has consistently been beaming down aliens in the form of sound ever since its inception. By the Roads and the Fields is no exception in its off kilter amalgam of folk, space-rock, and bedroom tape manipulations.

Although Crescent as a musical unit began over a decade ago, their releases have only sparsely dotted the indie music radar. This, their fourth album, envisions this collective -- which includes members of both Movietone and Flying Saucer Attack -- revamping their sound from a noise-riddled and oftentimes raw band into a mellow outfit that mends and meanders music into a soundtrack for the twilight.

Although By the Roads and the Fields differs its musical means from track to track, in the end Crescent always captures songs that are warm and capable of encompassing the fragility of human nature. In that human nature, Crescent also accentuates humanity's penchant for flawed, error-ridden songs in favor of something glossy, overproduced, and sterile. Because of this fact, this four-piece is a breath of musical fresh air.

Crescent stitches together such disparate and seminal acts as the Velvet Underground, Slowdive, Xiu Xiu, Brian Eno, and Hood, while displaying an eerie and peculiar proclivity for mellow, hypnotic dreamscapes. However, contrary to the prolific name-dropped acts, Crescent is seemingly built atop the skeleton of folk music. Voices surface on nearly every track with a rustic and pastoral quality coating the vocals through every sentence and syllable. It creates a deliberately contradictory sound for Crescent that oddly mirrors the music, which is assembled around such sonic odds and ends as organ, melodica, tape delays, random percussion, metal bowl, piano, and clarinet.

The result is something that's warm and touching, yet completely alien to most ears. But it's also something that is best heard in sparse listens, for much of the material's appeal is built around its ability to soothe the listener from unsuspecting angles. Repeated listens will dilute By the Roads and the Fields' emotional potency, not enrich the album with familiarity.

Recognizable moments also come with the track "River Debris", as Crescent pointedly hints at the Velvet Underground with its scrapes of electric viola. But, regardless, Crescent still demonstrates a tender and lush sonic illumination of humanity and its fragile entity.

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