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Posted on January 23rd, 2014 (10:00 am) by Justin Young

I Break Horses returns with a sophomore full-length, intriguingly titled Chiaroscuro, a term used in art to describe the use of dark and light contrasts to achieve a perceived three dimensional volume. Daringly interesting title choice for the Swedish duo, as it’s a title which demands a contrast of moods and dynamics to attain an overall tangible dimension in the album.

I Break Horses introduced themselves to the music world with their 2011 Hearts. The album was basically M83 “electroni-gaze.” Fittingly, they joined M83 on their supporting tour for Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, opening for a few dates in the US. The album had its high points, notably the opener “Winter Beats“ and title track “Hearts" which were allusive enough to shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine to attain not necessarily originality, but at least a developed sense of mood and emotion. However, after this it leaves the listener wanting. Pleasantly wanting, perhaps, but a lack of intrigue equals a loss of attention and sends an album drifting to the forgettable background noise section of the brain.

Whereas Hearts was certainly by no means a guitar ridden album, they were present. Especially so in the two standout tracks, where the feedback and possibly EBow-esque swells could possibly explain the strong MBV comparison. However, I Break Horses decided to leave Chiaroscuro completely devoid of any sort of guitar sounds, instead abandoning them for a strictly computer construct. While this may be a trendy decision, I cannot think of a single example where it has been a positive one, and Chiaroscuro is no exception.

Maria Lindén’s indifferently fluttering vocals certainly do not diminish anything about the album. They may not be interested in the music itself, which may provide some explanation to the less than inspired lyrical content of I Break Horses, but substance aside her voice itself is pleasant and strangely endearing. Perhaps the most enthralling part of the album is the very end, “Heart To Know,” where a complete lack of percussion leaves space for pleasing textures, heavily altered swooning vocals, and reversed sections of magic which surprisingly bring Electric President’s debut full-length to mind, which is one of the most acclaiming comparisons I could possibly give, as I regard Ben Cooper a genius and that album in particular as nothing short of a masterpiece.

Unfortunately, my interest was lost up until the end of the album through unconvincing minimalistic electronic synths and beats opposing their once swirling shoegaze soundscapes. The duo showed a hint of a spark with their debut, but following it up with a release like this certainly did not help ignite it. Instead, they have become just another slow and dull burning coal in a pile with all the rest of the electronic synth ash and cinder.

Track List:
1. You Burn
2. Faith
3. Ascension
4. Denial
5. Berceuse
6. Medicine Brush
7. Disclosure
8. Weigh True Words
9. Heart to Know

I Break Horses: Chiaroscuro
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

53 / 100
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