Album Reviews

Leander – Pass Fail

(Kennington) UK release date: 14 April 2008

Brothers Lars and Kranholt might reside in Berlin, but their group Leander exhibit a Scandinavian wintry glow that shines undimmed through their music making.

Their understated music can serve two functions, that of a simple chill out album, or that of a record that reveals more layers under close examination. The shades of colour they find with their subtle electronic trickery are as detailed as the portraits on the album’s cover, and contribute to a shared horizontal experience.

This is not a record in a hurry, though it does give the impression of movement against a still background. No League, the album’s centerpiece, proceeds slowly but emerges from a thoughtful pause with energetic drum fills and purposeful guitars, an effect also employed to good effect by the Cinematic Orchestra. 108 sounds like Love Song-era Cure, the drums brought upfront in the mix with ticking guitars.

The largely deadpan lyrics don’t always hint at an oasis of calm either. “I never wanted to share a room with you” begins Idaho, which then works itself out to a gorgeous string-led conclusion over stuttering beats – sparse rather than sweeping, and saying almost as much in music as it does in words. And Survive gradually introduces barely perceptible layers to beautiful effect, the brothers’ close, sotto voce harmonising also bringing Hide And Sleep to peaceful rest.

It’s clear these two know their way around a drum machine too. The jumbled beats of Home go well with the glassy electronic sounds above, and in What If, a softly sustained keyboard voice moves slowly over the most basic of breakbeats, proof that Leander know when to strip back to the basic essentials. “Go sleep”, the perfect comedown lyric begins, “it does get easier”.

What marks Leander out also is an occasional tendency for the unexpected. Just when you think you have them pigeon holed, a new trick comes out of the closet, such as the banjo sound with which Forked begins.

It’s this, coupled with their keen ear for texture and electronic orchestration, that makes a thoroughly rewarding debut album, and the softly spoken coda Four Days ensure it ends in a warm, balmy atmosphere. Promising label Kennington, it seems, are on to a good thing here.

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Leander – Pass Fail