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Joan Jeanrenaud 

Strange Toys (Talking House)

Wednesday, Feb 11 2009
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On her second solo album, former Kronos Quartet cellist Jeanrenaud aims "to become an ensemble of players, though playing all the parts myself." Thus, Strange Toys often relies on syncopated four-string phrases overdubbed in the studio or electronically looped into richly layered arrangements that never sacrifice accessibility for flashy invention. This listener-friendly approach lets you hear how each strand of the music weaves together. "Axis" plays off a fascinating cyclic motif, amplified by a subtle yet persistent echo, while "Transition" uses dueling contrapuntal lines to create a sumptuous dark mood. "Kaleidoscope" lays a dramatic bowed melody on top of a plucky riff, pumped up by an electro beat. "Ink Blot" mixes simple bouncy lines with sweeping overtones. Though the CD is rigorously "avant-garde," its genius lies in its listenability.

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