There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Like chill arctic winds, quite a lot of moody postrock has been hitting U.S. shores of late. The spacey meanderings of Sigur Rós, Mogwai, and Godspeed You Black Emperor! all share a distinct gloom that may well reflect on the miserable weather in their respective hometowns of Reykjavik, Iceland; Glasgow, Scotland; and Montreal. Cyann & Ben are from the slightly more temperate clime of Paris, so it makes sense that they’re not quite as glum as those other bands, if no less atmospheric. The quartet’s debut LP, Spring, mostly avoids the pomposity of such acts, too. Still, the formula here is familiar: the slow, brooding arpeggio of an undistorted electric guitar; subtle analog keyboards; plodding drums; and drawn-out, plaintive lyrics—usually in English, though often barely audible—sung by la femme Cyann. “A Dance With the Devil,” for example, opens with a pump organ and a slow-heartbeat rhythm, its pulse quickening as it builds to a gentle maelstrom of slow-crashing cymbals, pounding toms, and compressed guitar squeal. Alas, that’s as exciting as things get on Spring. Too often, it’s hard to detect any pulse at all in the disc’s languor. The seven minutes of “Melody” fail to deliver one, and its repetitive guitar plucking and whispered lyrics aren’t so much mesmerizing as dull. “I Can’t Pretend Anymore” achieves a dreamy beauty with its ever climbing-and-falling keyboard melody, true, but it leaves no impression on the memory. One culprit here is Cyann’s thin, slightly nasal voice. On “Siren Song,” it amounts to a cold, wet blanket thrown over the warm, shuffling tune beneath. But more often than not, the vocals are simply too weak to bear the weight of the group’s portentous, clumsily Englished lyrics: “And the devil is dancing/All around the place/Nowhere to run away/How could I leave, far away from the nightmare?” For what it is—delicate loveliness with some French-cafe angst—Spring is charming enough. But it’s also much like the season from which it draws its name: mild, pleasant, and all too ephemeral. —Michael Crowley