Keene :: The River and the Fence (Poeta Negra, CD)

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(06.30.07) William Boyd coined the term “zemblanity” for “The opposite of serendipity,
the faculty of making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries by design.”
So when the idiosyncrasy of English spelling-sound correspondences results
in an experimental electroacoustic audio-visual project from Greece and a
bunch of wet and whiny UK indie-rock weeds sharing the same signifier…
That’s zemblanity. Sure, Keene may be written differently from Keane, but
try establishing some oral distinction, and you’ll get nothing but /ki:n/.
Only words, sure, but words are signifiers, and this one’s already taken
(and taken the wrong way).

Fortunately, though, on The River and the Fence the trio of Dimitris
Mitsiopoulos, Haris Martis and Kostas Giazlas creates more than enough
distinction through its music, an evocative assemblage of doleful but
engaging sound tableaux. Initially suggesting a looser less tech-y
Biosphere, the air of that project’s one-man-and-his-mac hermetics
dissipates, as the vestiges of a more open almost band-aesthetic comes
through. The arrangements evolve into something more drifting, less
contained by its structures, often folding in overt guitar strum’n'pluck,
melodies coming from real instruments rather than samples, and the odd
creaky organic-mechanic rhythmic underpinnings. “Stroked Trees” and “The
River” are flecked with piano-tone and cello-drone, the latter channeling
not so much Murcof as Popol Vuh, with a strain of chamber post-rock that
has haunting resonances of that post-psychedelic pre-Cosmic kraut rock
sound, as well as overtones of GYBE!’s Constellation.

The prevailing mood is not so much “dark” (certainly not in a Cold Meat
Industry sense) as shadowy, and imbued with a melancholy which somehow
doesn’t stifle. There are passages where Keene tap into some of the
quasi-Goth aesthetic of mid-late 80s 4AD, and further echoes of Biosphere’s
Big Bleak return, notably on “Weir of Fog.” The closing “The Fence” is a
bold piece of heartbreak string thematics with double-tracked cello,
echoing long and smeared into a mournful lament that’s slowly swamped in a
digital vortex of static and low-end gloop.

The River and the Fence blends
a poetic synaesthetics of sound-vision with the grit of something
approaching live performance, treated with careful post-production
interventions. The overall results in an album to place alongside Neon’s
Au Théâtre Des Sons Imaginaires as Poeta Negra’s best.

The River and the Fence is out now on Poeta Negra. [Purchase]

  • Poeta Negra
  • Keene