LEANDER: Pass Fail (Kennington Recordings)


Posted on Mar 31st 2008 11:14 pm

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Leander: Pass Fail

Pass Fail
Kennington Recordings 2008
11 Tracks. 45mins23secs

There is something immediately engaging about Pass Fail, from the moment the eponymous opener stirs to life. Languid vocals and drowsy indie colourings are given counterpoint by what sounds like a mislaid Autechre drum pattern. A melancholy mantra lingers – “And you say pass, fail, but this is not your voice” – an intriguing line whose meaning seems to drift somewhere out of reach of the listener. It is the sort of opener that offers untold promise – the casual delivery, the infectious tune, the dispassionate elegance of tone. And yet, for all its interest, this opening salvo proves to be a prelude to a series of disappointments that are as baffling as they are deflating.

In a way, the assured, ice-cold beginner feels as though it somehow should have its own separate existence, because what follows is a sequence of tracks that try to follow its template whilst never quite finding the right balance. Idaho is a near perfect facsimile of the first song, but its sound lacks piquancy. Similarly, And Survive and Hide And Sleep are pleasant, unusual and yet somehow unmemorable efforts that mix low-key vocals with fractured electronica.

The frustrating thing about this album is that it should work more frequently than it does. With so many record labels churning out guitar-led indie bands whose sense of daring might stretch to a Killers cover, this sort of music is in short supply. Embracing electronics to find something new is definitely the idea here, but the idea can only be taken so far. Too often, this album seems to sleep-walk its way to the finish line. Instrumental tracks like No League and What If feel like album fillers rather than genuine attempts at diversity and experimentation.

However, it is too cruel to attack the final product here without praising the goal. At least two or three tracks have the stamp of genuine talent. But Leander have the potential to do much more than this, and find a truly original musical language. This current effort is a bold failure, but brothers Lars and Daniel Kranholdt have to be applauded for doing something new. With so much of music now settling into redundant pigeonholes, attempts at fusing styles as disparate as electronica and a sort of sleepy mid-nineties shoegazing sound have at least the attraction of novelty.

With time, this is a band that really could become interesting. But for now, the ambiguity of the album title Pass Fail has to serve as a verdict on the album itself – good perhaps, but not quite good enough.


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