Dances with Wolves – South East

Dances with Wolves
South East

What this review is going to boil down to is that the album sounds like Prince being channeled through Stephin Merrit’s keyboards with a dash of twee. If this isn’t your thing, you may stop reading this review ahead of time and save yourself a few minutes. But if you’re like me and your brain immediately pictured something along the lines of “Fido, UR Leash is 2 Long” and went into twitches of geekgasm, then you are going to love this album, as long as you can get over the lame name.
Dances with Wolves – yeah, okay, get the Kevin Costner jokes out now – is the side-project of Adrian Finch, known primarily for his work in Elf Power and Masters of the Hemisphere. This album doesn’t deviate fundamentally too far from ground tread in Elf Power – there are peppy songs and quiet songs, and most of them have a sugar-coated edge to them. The difference is in the instrumentation: About 25 percent of the sounds on this album seem to be one of three keyboard patches that go Wobbawobbawobbawobba. And it is awesome. The songs usually consist of drums, sparse guitar, and keyboards, and Finch is talented enough to use them in ways that don’t get repetitive or boring. By the time you’re done with the languid, dispirited “Somewhere Else,” you’ll have a hard time believing that the disco rave-up “Freedom Speck” came a scant two songs ago – that is, until the Casio-inflected Dump-channeling-Prince “All About My Last Night” starts doing the robot and singing about meeting girls at trackmeets through a Radio Shack microphone. The consistent instrumentation, slightly off-beat though it may be, gives the album a consistency that its varied songs might otherwise shy away from.
Those varied songs, by the way, are killer, down to a one – even “Honeymoon,” drumless and freeform though it may be, has a great whistling section in it which saves it from toeing the “boring” line. The first few songs may come at you the wrong way if you aren’t ready for the abundance of synth wobble, but on the second or third listen “Get Inside the Car” felt like it was supposed to – wistful and hopeful – rather than slow and trilling. The production boosts the songs, as well; there’s an interesting “recorded through tin cans” feeling that gives songs like “Thirty” an edge up on every other band with bloopy keyboards. The lyrics compliment this approach to production, as well, by consisting mostly of reminisces. There’s just enough echo and rust and vintage Moog on this album to make it feel like an honest collection of recollections – and that alone makes it worth the price of admission.
It’s tough to rationalize spending $12 on a band who probably barely tours out of his own hometown, but record collectors who are willing to take a chance may want to seriously consider it this time. Fans of Elf Power should already own this album by now, as it adds just enough variety to the band’s standard formula to make it engaging, and twee aficionados will likely feel the same way about the slanted take on pop songs that Finch provides. As for the rest of us – Prince! The Magnetic Fields! Jesus, people, what else do you want from music?