The Norman Transcript

April 12, 2013

Music review: The Cannanes is endearing, enchanting

By Doug Hill
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN —

Album Name: Small Batch (2013, Exro.FM & Lamingtone Records)

Musician: The Cannanes

Synopsis: Small Batch is the latest release from the best Australian pop duo you’ve never heard of.

Why you should listen: Stephen O’Neil and Frances Gibson have been recording together over the last 27 years. Although not a household name, they’ve made a sonic impact with devoted fans around the world touring in the USA, Asia and Europe from their home base Down Under. They were found after his demise listed in one of Kurt Cobain’s notebooks as among the musician’s favorite bands

A 2011 American show poster adoringly refers to the duo as “From Australia: Seminal Indie Gods.” The Cannanes’ latest release “Small Batch” is aptly titled because it’s a wee six tracks long. Those 20 or so minutes of lush sound are like a handful of perfectly delicious home-made cookies that you wish were a baker’s dozen.

Gibson’s gently melodic vocals suggest the Aussie lullaby nurse you never had. Her voice sometimes has a slight endearing quaver that’s subtly enchanting. The songs have an enigmatic fairy tale quality that draws you into a world not easily understood. Melodies are the pesky kind that come back uninvited in waking dreams.

With a single exception the song titles are one word: “Bumper,” “Crawler,” “Basics,” “Molecule,” “Tiny Compartment” and “Zone.” So they’re less than helpful decoding the cryptic meanings. Is it a coincidence that the lyrics tab at The Cannanes’ website doesn’t open? I don’t think so.

Trumpet and flute aren’t typically associated with space pop in this century but the Cannanes add them for magical, albeit grounding effect. The trumpeter is Penny McBride but it’s as if she’s channeling Herb Alpert playing languidly on a Marrakech night train.

The “Molecule” composition is a thumping beats box percussion trek with eerie echo lyrics and vibrating bass line. There’s something vaguely sinister about the sound like those unfamiliar jangles right before your car stumbles unexpectedly to a halt on a remote moonlit road. “Small Batch” is a petite dose of dreamy aural confusion.

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