It is rare, indeed, to come across a group that creates such a unique language that they completely defy categorization. While there are many labels that could be applied to some of what Clogs do, none fit properly; Lullaby for Sue
creates a rich sonic landscape that is so distinctive, that comparisons are pointless.
With a group that consists of guitar, percussion, bassoon/recorder and violin/viola, one is immediately compelled to categorize this as some form of chamber music. And, to be certain, there is a certain neo-classical ambiance that brings to mind groups like Rachael’s. But where their previous recording, Thom’s Night Out
readily fit into that category, Lullaby for Sue
is more edgy; the improvisational element is more overt.
One of the characteristics that makes Lullaby for Sue
so interesting is that there are no definitions or boundaries for the instruments. At different points each instrument can either be holding the rhythm, the bottom or the melody. Roles are not even defined for the duration of a piece; they shift from instrument to instrument almost invisibly.
Unlike Thom’s Night Out
, Lullaby for Sue
is more aggressive at times; but the textures are rich and full, and even the slightly industrial sound of pieces like "Who’s Down Now" are strangely compelling.
The compositions, primarily written by Padma Newsome, draw from a wide range of sources: new music, medieval, aboriginal music, classical minimalism and more. But styles are seamlessly blended into a new whole; and the arrangements conceived by guitarist Bryce Dressner, bassoonist Rachael Elliott and percussionist Thomas Kozumplik create ambiances that are strange yet familiar; jarring yet soothing. This is music that challenges without being alienating, by retaining a certain lyrical quality that draws one into musical soundscapes that might otherwise be considered too obscure.
Clogs create music that is highly visual, but the visions they create are of places unknown. Yet for all that they invoke familiar emotions: love, despair, happiness, loss.
More electric and eclectic than their début recording, Lullaby for Sue
is a landmark recording by a group that defies easy labeling; by enticing the listener while at the same time challenging, Clogs manage to create a new musical expression that shows a remarkable evolution in a short period of time. One can only wonder where they will be in a year’s time.