Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ans. Andur - Kiletron

Ans. Andur - "Kiletron"


Norman Kuusik

Ans. Andur is a four-man band from the heart of Estonia (the town of Paide) and Kiletron their fifth and ultimate release so far. The general consensus seems to define the band as 'indie-pop/rock' and if you are, like myself, confused at the musical characteristics behind the term, let's go and try to take this one step at a time.

From the very first notes, we are greeted with an upbeat, rather scratchy guitar melody, followed by even more upbeat vocals, singing about a guy dancing around with the listener, buying her(/him) drinks all Friday night long and going for a quick spin in the loo (the lyrics on Kiletron are exclusively Estonian, something we also look later on). The track ultimately fades out on the sound of some obscure electronic loop, which is another characteristic aspect of the album. The second track, Start Stopp, starts with a similar upbeat, scratchy guitar tone, except that the melody this time sounds something like a variation on the theme of Kung Fu Fighting. But this is rather a good thing, giving the song a hook to latch onto – something which was missing on the first track. The ending is again somewhat obscure, coming down to an improvised acoustic section not really having anything to do with the rest of the song. Like the melody in the beginning, this need not be a bad thing.

The main problem of Kiletron seems to be lack of depth. Particularly in dynamics, the production results in a somewhat flat sound. Considering there's actually quite a bit going on in the record, this is quite sad although it might just as well be the inevitable consequence of piling too many things ontop of each other. Still, composition-wise, there isn't much sense of redundancy.

Emotionally, Kiletron is equally obvious; the adjectives 'optimistic' and 'naïve' completely cover the whole spectre of the album's repertoire. And while there can be no doubt in the sincerity of this joie de vivre (much more than in the case of Id Rev anyway), the refined listener of the 21st century might at occasion find this simplicity wanting (tsk!).

So that's indie-pop for you, tried and true. Now let's take a look at the redeeming factors.

If you, like myself, have a thing for multiple vocal arrangements, Ans. Andur must sound like heaven. Unlike the norm of having a single dominating lead-singer, three of the four band members actually sing both on the album and on stage. And by singing, I don't mean a silent hum-along of an occasional chorus or two. Shifts of the lead vocal are frequent and seamless, backed by alternative vocal lines most of the time. In fact, so dominant are vocal arrangements that they tend to overshadow rest of the music, and thus the successfulness of each song is determined by how well they are worked out. In my own particular favourite, Melodraama, the leading vocal line is uncharacteristically low-pitched, which the backing vocals flood in wave after wave as the song reaches its culmination(s). Perhaps not as flamboyant as in some other songs, the verse/chorus contrast here is the album's most stellar moment. Of course, the singers themselves aren't necessary stellar on their own right, and rather have this impact only in the context of a larger frame. I would go as far as to say that it is not very outrageous for the audience of auto-tuned R'n'B radio pop to come to the conclusion that none of the vocalists can actually “sing”.

Although the occasional incomprehensibility does not help, the lyrical side well supports the band's image. No high poetry here (except for maybe the fourth track Praha kevad, which contrasts the events of 1969 with a modern spring in Prague. deep stuff!), but the whole album is a prime example that pop-lyrics in Estonian (without sounding cheesy) are indeed possible.

There you have it, 'indie-pop' from the heart of Estonia. And a rather good one at that – the (home-brewed?) recording quality is well compensated by the songs themselves. The first few listens might pass unnoticed (which is probably bad for the band's commercial success), but ultimately the band's love for vocal harmonies justifies a lengthier devotion.

One last thing to mention is the productivity of these guys. This is the fifth album of a band active only since 2002 (making it about... an album in every 1.4 years). Admittedly, the first two they themselves consider a demo recording than an album 'proper', but the quantity of music is still tenfold of – say – Axl Rose (tho' something like a hundred times less than Buckethead, so it's all a matter of perspective... and quality). Not that we should read too much into that sort of things, but this too works in favour of Andur when compared to some more polished counterparts from the distant west. Even more so when considering the anecdote how one of the band members accidentally managed to leak the unreleased Kiletron via Soulseek. Now that's indie for you.

01. Reede
02. Start Stopp
03. Melodraama
04. Praha kevad
05. Mu binoklis
06. 100
07. Marko Kristal
08. Ester
09. Puhkepäev
10. Sügisene meloodia
11. (sa olid mu viimase leveli) Lõpuboss
12. Suhkur


bv said...

There’s an intriguing way of involving the reader to start with: the „general consensus“ vs the confused „you“ like „myself“ so „let's go“ on with it as „we“. The musicianship of the author comes through in the following, as song structures are described and analysed (in other reviews, there is less attention on structures and more on the overall feel).

Remarkably, this is also one of the very few reviews that includes a chorus, albeit a slightly varying one. Already presaged by „The general consensus seems to define the band as 'indie-pop/rock'“, it comes across as „So that's indie-pop for you, tried and true“, „There you have it, 'indie-pop' from the heart of Estonia“ and finally, „Now that's indie for you“. Apparently an unwitting device but one that works well in assessing the fairly traditional songwriting patterns of Ans.Andur.

In this way, the review conveys the sense of proving a point by argument yet also communicates a twinge of pity for the record verging too much into the generic „indie“ at the expense of a greater potential; this was elaborated in the class discussion of the apparent contradiction between „lack of depth“/„flat sound“ and „piling too many things on top of each other“.

There is also the characteristic concern with the 21st century – indeed, what turns (and no-turnings-back) of tastes will it bring?

The „upbeat [---] guitar melody, followed by even more upbeat vocals“ bit made me pay attention to the way that the reluctant vocal phrasing may create an interesting tension with the upbeat backing on the Camera Obscura album. So there it is with reviews – curious phrases in one can highlight features on a different record!

Norman said...

I've given some thought on the whole repetition of 'indie' thing. I think my initial intention was definitely to return to the original motive of "people say this is indie" everytime the i-word surfaces. In that regard, I suppose repetition deliberate, although I did not percieve it on musical terms at the time of writing.