The Upshot: The same recognizable magic as Tunng’s best work, in hectically complicated arrangements that melt into simplicity and sleek modern surfaces atop centuries-old modalities.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Tunng co-founder Sam Genders has been missing for two albums, as under the sway of Mike Lindsay and Becky Jacobs, the folktronica collective has moved further away from its shadowy melancholic roots towards a brighter, more conventional sound. With Songs You Make at Night, Genders is back for the first time since 2007’s Good Arrows, adding a soft wistful ache to the band’s percolating rhythms and expansively instrumented grooves. This latest album is still a fair amount bubblier than early works, with the electronic part more prominent than on Mother’s Daughter or Good Arrows, yet it has the same recognizable magic as Tunng’s best work, in hectically complicated arrangements that melt into simplicity and sleek modern surfaces atop centuries-old modalities.
In this way, the single “ABOP” bleeps and burbles with dance elements, its antic syncopated beat banging on amid new wave-y chimes of keyboard. Yet it also works a night time sorcercy with lyrics evoking “A blue moon phosphorescence, ignites around my fall, like chalk around a body, like light inside a storm.” Some of these songs are relatively folky, though even “Crow” weaves samples and shiny Rhodes and glitch-rhythms into its melody. Sounds are always in flux, one turning into another, electric morphing into acoustic, melancholy into euphoric, introspective into body-celebrating dance. “Dark Heart” is the most synthwave-y of these cuts, its ghost disco trills of “Ah! Ah la la la!” punctuating blatting, burping beats, but even it starts in birdsong and water sound. This is the music of magical realism, where anything might be transmuted into anything else at any moment.
There’s a nocturnal air to many of these songs, which are bookended by “Dream In” and “Dream Out,” two concoctions of electronic aura and wistful confidences. The first one is longer, throwing up flares of keyboard sound and glitch percussion around murmured verse. “It’s a beautiful dream,” observes Genders, in his unadorned way and an altered woman’s voice, fully of eerie vibrato, flickers up in the background. “Dream Out” has no vocals, but it also works in soft, understated textures, where ordinary strums and jangles coalesce into fairy dusted surreality. The album ends with a very Tunng-like spoken word sample of a man asking, “Why are you lying down in the middle of the forest?” Why indeed, but also why not?
DOWNLOAD: “ABOP,” “Dream In”