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With Cultivations, Au.Ra's Tim Jenkins and Tom Crandles make another big departure: Just as Jane's Lament found them leaving behind the straightforward indie rock of their previous bands, the duo's second album ventures into even more evocative terrain. Where Jane's Lament cast a single, lulling spell with its foggy dream pop, this time Au.Ra deliver vivid, hyper-real fragments. A large part of Cultivations' intensity comes from the duo's emphasis on electronics, particularly on the album's first half; the slinky electro underpinnings of "Pulse" and the spiky arpeggios on "I Feel You" provide sharp contrasts to the wistful vocals. Indeed, Au.Ra's flair for remarkably expressive production and arrangements is the main thing Cultivations shares with Jane's Lament, and the best moments here go beyond dream pop into mirage-pop. "Nowhere"'s gleaming guitars and synths evoke a beachy paradise that's too good to be true (and the blasts of feedback suggest that it is). On "Above the Triangle II," the band ponders reality itself while crystalline acoustic guitars call to mind fellow Aussies the Church. On songs like this, the transporting album opener "Applause," and the Deerhunter-esque "Above the Triangle" gain extra emotional impact because of their intricate sonics. Despite the fluidity of its sounds, Cultivations doesn't always make as cohesive a statement as Au.Ra's debut. While the guitar-driven instrumental "Dreamwork" remains compelling throughout seven-and-a-half minutes, songs such as "Black Hole" and "Set the Scene" tend to meander. Nevertheless, Cultivations lives up to its name -- along with delivering moments of brilliance, Au.Ra seem prepared to build on its potential.