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A Tunng lashing

| November 15, 2010

It sounds stupid, but let’s get it out of the way: If Sufjan Stevens were behind . . . And Then We Saw Land (Thrill Jockey), we’d forget all about The Age Of Adz and hail it as an album of the year. Tunng won’t be so lucky.

We’re not doing Tunng much justice by portraying their fourth album (third for local imprint Thrill Jockey) in such a light, and we’re sure Stevens wouldn’t appreciate a comparison to some individuals whose partnership formed while allegedly creating scores for erotic films. The Londoners even have Stevens’ sense of grandeur, opening Land with the eight-minute “Weekend Away.” While neither shows much influence on the other, the process seems the same (at least before someone came to Illinois): taking traditional folk tones and seeing things that buskers and singer/songwriters don’t, and doing so without ever acknowledging The Beatles or Rolling Stones. Tunng never venture into thorny psychological dissections, which occasionally pushes them into straight-backed Fairport territory. But the emergence of vocalist Becky Jacobs (in the absence of founder Sam Genders) vanquishes any impending monotony, especially on the skeletal “These Winds,” and a willingness to embed something as anachronistic as rudimentary synth lines shows a responsibility to not break off more than they can chew, which has proven to be Stevens’ most recent problem.

Opener Cheyenne Marie Mize shouldn’t be so carelessly dropped in the folk bin, particularly because she sounds so alone. Based on her résumé you could have a point (recording with Will Oldham; touring with Ben Sollee), but this fall’s Before Lately (Sonablast) couldn’t sound more comfortable in its solitude — as if relationships are a means to breakup and return that feeling of finally having the place to oneself again. Sparingly arranged, Mize’s voice seeks out corners without taking up space, recalling both Oldham and ex-Spinane Rebecca Gates. (Wednesday@Schubas.)

Click here to download Tunng’s “Don’t Look Down Or Back.”

— Steve Forstneger

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