Cranes – Cranes

Cranes
Cranes

Cranes were only really known to me as a half-remembered name from the gig guide sections of early 90s music papers. Other bands made actual inroads into my album collection around then – MBV, Pixies, The Stone Roses, loads of anonymous electronica – but Cranes inhabited a shadowy and partly hidden world that existed between the pages of Melody Maker, which I never read. I didn’t know who Blur were either, and reading that Creation had spent £250,000 on Loveless just increased my sense of apathy. I really wasn’t paying proper attention.

But Cranes are very much with us today, and as wilfully obscure as they were almost two decades ago. It was purely chance that found me reviewing their Particles And Waves album, and I could barely contain my enthusiasm. In the midst of the Curtis-cult that enveloped most of 2005, here were a band showing some quite startling originality with a piece of music on a par with either of the Cocteau Twins first two albums, Rides Nowhere, Primal Screams Screamadelica – a record that was every bit as dramatic and demanding a listen as any of the best early work of Crane’s contemporaries.

Three years on and Cranes is designed to show that 1)the band haven’t used up all of their creative energies just yet and 2)things are a little calmer and a touch more enigmatic than they were three years ago. Out have gone the overpowering techniques that gave Particles And Waves its overbearingly visceral qualities, and back, or rather to the fore, has come Alison Shaw’s girlish vocal stylings. Whether you find these charming, sinister, or merely a bit on the dull side, or whether you are astonished that a middle aged woman can effectively mimic an eight year old girl without apparently resorting to either production trickery or copious draughts of helium, well, that’s all just part of the little game Cranes want us to join in with today.

To their credit, Crane’s own mix of minimalism and eccentric otherworldliness manages to carry things of but Particles And Waves is an undeniably more robust and confident record than Cranes is. The childlike qualities of Alison Shaws vocal style has other resonances though: for almost a year the UK media was gripped by the story of Madeleine McCann, kidnapped from a hotel while on a family holiday, and Cranes takes on a chilling resemblance to a musical score sung from the standpoint of a lost child. Awkward, unsettling, some of you will find it plain unkistenable; but that is Cranes, whether any of us like it or not.