SIAN ALICE GROUP
59.59
(The Social Registry)

recommendedrecommended 1/2

Like Paul Westerberg's recently released 49:00, Sian Alice Group's 59.59 has a little problem with timing. But while Westerberg's midlife opus is actually 43 minutes and 55 seconds long, off by a good five minutes, Sian Alice Group miss their mark by merely nine seconds (according to iTunes). Close enough for rock 'n' roll.

Only, Sian Alice Group are in fact a long way off from rock 'n' roll. Founded in 2006 by vocalist Sian Ahern and multi-instrumentalists Rupert Clervaux and Ben Crook, the group incorporate a wide array of styles on this nearly hour-long album, foraying into ambient interludes, acoustic folk, offbeat jazz, chamber pop, slowcore dirges, and more. Throughout, though, the group maintain a subtle cohesion of sound and mood, thanks in large part to the constants of Clervaux's atmospherically rich production and Ahern's soaring singing voice, a voice that practically demands the dusting off of that hoary music-critic cliché "ethereal."

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There are plenty of memorable moments on the album—the Cowboy Junkies– style, abandoned-church ballad of "Heartless," the way "When..." breaks from a percussion and noise freak-out worthy of the Boredoms into melancholy acoustic-guitar echoes, the syncopated electric guitar and drum stomp of "Motionless" contrasting with Ahern's gauzy, stretched-out syllables. But what's most remarkable about 59.59 is that it plays with the listener's attention, shifting from song to score to ambience and back again so fluidly that the hour is up before you know it, passed by like nothing more substantial than a dream. recommended

Sian Alice Group play Fri Sept 26, El Corazón, 8 pm, $10 adv/$12 DOS, all ages. With A Place to Bury Strangers, Mono in VCF.