steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Quiet Bears

"Future(s) Blues" CDR EP

Orchid Collective

Genre: lo-fi, experimental, Americana

Davenport, IA

December 2009

On the lush Future(s) Blues, Quiet Bears' Johnny Cluney tries instrumental music on for size. Where I adored his prior effort for its lo-fi take on Americana folk, here the favoured approach is a moody, ambient one. Using keys, hushed drums, and low-key guitar, Cluney churns out brief moodscapes which are as accessible as they are evocative.

Despite a change in approach, still embroiled in Quiet Bears' sound is a distinct sense of country heritage -- at several points on Future(s) Blues, one perceives the influence of the dusty, rural road at night. Nowhere is this more evident than on the two parts of "Future(s) Blues." Its first section is all sifting percussion, pretty guitar, and bucolic harmonium -- an uplifting, promising, and gloriously open-ended affair, as its suggests. The second part, meanwhile, is somehow older and even pained, its regretful picked guitar and solemn strings conveying a hardened outlook. The two parts together make for perfect accompaniment to Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury or Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio -- two books which intersected with my encounters with this record.

The rest of Future(s) Blues is more freeform than its titular composition, as on the stunning, Virgin Suicides-era keyboard build of haunting "Sung Sun" and the time-melting soundscape that is "Green Dream." These more abstract compositions don't come off as mere interludes, however; the longer ones, at least, comprise interesting and listenable sound experiments which accentuate the EP's twilit rural atmosphere. Like the rest of Cluney's body of work, this EP is a brief one -- concision is a virtue that more aspiring songwriters should observe than do, although with Quiet Bears material, one is always left wanting the music to go on. While I would love to hear Cluney expand upon the folky work of his We Are all Legend, I couldn't honestly complain about this new avenue of sound.

quiet bears' myspace

From the last album:

Michael Tau

[Vitals: 8 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2009]