Tunng
Mother's Daughter and Other Songs

By Ed Chamberlin

 
There is a school of thought which holds that a landscape will influence the soundscapes recorded there. Sigur Rós' Icelandic origin can be discerned in their ethereal music. Mother's Daughter and Other Songs sounds as though it was made in the Scottish highlands, with Boards Of Canada and the Beta Band as neighbours. In reality, it was recorded underneath a lingerie shop – the lack of libidinous sisqo-style ‘thong-tha-thong-thong-tunng’ crap is something of a mystery.

The band sound almost identical to The Books, to the point where you sometimes feel you have heard sections of this album in their entirety on Thought For Food or Lemon Of Pink. The main difference is that the New York outfit hide behind their lattices of samples, choreographers of nonsense vocals and rootsy textures – while Tunng, Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders, are manifest in person, displaying their own emotions. Their music is more song-based – which is not to suggest that they're 'The Books with training wheels'. This is extremely far-sighted work, and the duo show off some pretty savvy pop moves.

Mother’s Daughter, People Folk, Beautiful and Light, Tale From Black, Fair Doreen and especially final track Surprise Me 44, (whose ascending guitar figure, descending vocals and starry-eyed ‘do-do-do’s are about as perfect as it’s possible to get), are essentially pop songs. However, Tunng show that, like The Books, they understand the emotional impact of a well-placed piece of dialogue. The warm bass, sparse piano and skipping-rope beats on the instrumental Out The Window With The Window reach their emotional climax with the nonsensical repetition of the title that closes it.

There is a sense that some risks that could have been taken here, but were shied away from. Kinky Vans, another instrumental track, builds up a sweet procession of processed electronic textures, delicate melodies and occasional orchestral interjections, but fails to develop beyond its initial promise, leaving the listener to ride out the last three minutes with nothing to grab onto. There are a few other moments when the band are coasting, but these are mercifully rare, and clever production goes a long way towards hiding the less imaginative sections. Luckily, there is not a duff melody on here, making the whole experience too pleasant to really complain about.

The album's cover art is very appropriate: pastoral and beautifully composed, but extremely complex, with all the elements distorted beyond any coherent meaning. The music is very much like this, and that, of course, is meant in the best possible way.

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