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Leaves Turn Inside You
     

Leaves Turn Inside You

by Unwound
 
The title of the Tumwater, Washington trio Unwound's seventh studio album implies a subtle, personal, internal shift. A drift from summer into autumn, an undeterrable and, at base, unsettling change of self that's akin to a calm but determined change of seasons. Leaves Turn Inside You is the culmination of Unwound's three-year process

Overview

The title of the Tumwater, Washington trio Unwound's seventh studio album implies a subtle, personal, internal shift. A drift from summer into autumn, an undeterrable and, at base, unsettling change of self that's akin to a calm but determined change of seasons. Leaves Turn Inside You is the culmination of Unwound's three-year process of reinvention, and on first listen by anyone familiar with the band's trademark slash-and-burn abrasiveness, the transition seems anything but subtle. The path that led to the band's first double album wasn't an abrupt and contrived stylistic leap, however. The members had aged a bit, taking the three years since recording 1998's Challenge for a Civilized Society to ponder their musical identities, an introspective windfall that led them to construct their MagRecOne (Magnetic Recording Academy) studio, and to the decision to self-produce an album for the first time in their ten-year history. At the end of two long years, the band had built and rebuilt MagRecOne, and labored under their own standards of quality control until the 14 songs that would make up Leaves Turn Inside You were finished. All the while, individual bandmembers were occupied recording bands populated by kindred spirits who identified with various studio masters' methods and manifesto, and also working on side projects such as bass player Vern Rumsey's Long Hind Legs. The construction of a home studio afforded Unwound the one key resource that comes in such short supply and at great expense when recording in a professional studio: time. What's likely the central reason for the lengthy wait between albums was the freedom recording at MagRecOne provided the band; freedom to follow the entire cycle of an idea to its creative and logical end and, perhaps more importantly, freedom not to use the takes and/or ideas that didn't quite pan out the way they were intended. Conversely, however, there are the pitfalls of self-indulgence and obsession; it's just as easy to become overwhelmed by the myriad creative paths that may lead to a bloated, ridiculous album. Thankfully, the members of Unwound are savvy sonic economists, and almost never fail to trim the unnecessary fat. Perhaps another direct result of their recording circumstances, Unwound's members have explored their more melodic tendencies and incorporated them into their songwriting. Also, they show no apparent fear of unconventional instrumentation. The band eschew some of the more traditional rock equipment in favor of allowing harpsichord, slide guitar, and cello to sit alongside obscure bits like the Dynachord, Nordlead, and synthesizers that sound as though they were lifted from warped Prince LPs. That the members of Unwound are not necessarily seasoned engineers sometimes shines through, however. Even with longtime producer Steve Fisk in the studio to lend a hand, the production values (especially Sara Lund's usually cacophonous drumming) sometimes sound more like muffled firecrackers than raucous explosions. Leaves Turn Inside You opens with 11 notes of pure drone (ostensibly guitar), each individually dropping into the mix within the song's first ten seconds, and then held for two minutes like some hypnotic high school hearing evaluation, before the initial strains of "We Invent You" finally fade up through the haze. The perfect opening track, "We Invent You" is an anthemic exposition, and also an invitation: "Nothing will be the same/Concentrate on this phrase/Beyond this world I live" and "Collect your belongings/I'm inventing you." A Mellotron and dual guitars then proceed to prime the album in a diaphanous, sonic sheen. This tone permeates even the rockers on the record, in light of which Unwound hasn't entirely abandoned the punk bite of its not-so-distant past. Another of the album's highlights, the heavy, arresting "Scarlette," is a scathing letter to a lover who is ignorant of its importance to the narrator. The song exemplifies the edgier tunes on the record, which are rendered in a manner familiar to prior Unwound recordings while avoiding self-derivation. "December" and "Treachery" both bear the hallmarks of Repetition or Fake Train's best moments, while "Off This Century" is Unwound's noisy and resolute statement of a stalwart anti-market mentality, proffering a mistrust of the ideals insidiously propagated by the bloated conglomerates that populate corporate America. Unfortunately, in the midst of all this, singer/guitarist Justin Trosper reveals himself to be equipped with the mildly annoying tendency that many lyricists seem to have: the habit of forcing words into a song structure where they may not necessarily fit. This leaves some of the songs sounding clumsy, and Trosper not exactly being a crooner, his sometimes lackadaisical delivery can leave the songs teetering on the brink of lazy embarrassment. Fortunately, those moments are the exception rather than the rule. The record's finest moment comes in the form of the stunning "Demons Sing Love Songs." With languid diapasons serving as backing vocals (courtesy of Lund and Quasi/Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss), the band floats through what is easily the most beautiful moment on any Unwound recording, and would stand as a classic against any time-tested slice of psychedelia known to man. Somehow, Leaves Turn Inside You echoes itself. Listening to it can sometimes feel like walking down a long, dark, cavernous marble hallway, wherein notes reverberate on, off, and around themselves on their way to and from the ear canals of the listener. Unwound's new melodicism exudes the mood of a late summer afternoon, floating through the shimmer and haze of an indeterminate duration that asks you not to speculate on the length of the season, but allows you to bask in a kind of resigned confidence in the present. Ultimately, Leaves Turn Inside You is a unique, epic effort from one of the most inventive and dynamic rock bands in recent memory.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/17/2001
Label:
Kill Rock Stars
UPC:
0759656036924
catalogNumber:
60369

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Unwound   Primary Artist
Steve Fisk   Mellotron
Sara Lund   Percussion,Drums,Background Vocals
Vern Rumsey   Organ,Guitar,Piano,Bass Guitar,Vocals
Justin Trosper   Synthesizer,Piano,Background Vocals,Mellotron,fender rhodes
Janet Weiss   Background Vocals
Brandt Sandeno   Organ,Guitar,Harpsichord,Background Vocals,Mellotron,Slide Guitar,fender rhodes

Technical Credits

Unwound   Producer
Phil Ek   Engineer
Kip Beelman   Engineer
Sara Lund   Producer,Engineer
Vern Rumsey   Producer,Engineer
Justin Trosper   Producer,Engineer

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