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The Balky Mule|The Length of the Rail

The Length of the Rail

The Balky Mule

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Lingua disponibile: inglese

It probably shouldn't be surprising that an artist going by the name the Balky Mule makes music that sounds as, well, balky as The Length of the Rail, but it certainly is refreshing. Too many "folktronica" artists polish over the quirks that make folk music and electronic music unique, somehow making it into something smoother and blander than either style on its own. That certainly can't be said of Sam Jones, who fashions the Balky Mule's music out of nothing but perfectly imperfect acoustics and electronics. Jones made his second album, The Length of the Rail, with old, often malfunctioning drum machines and keyboards, found sounds, and the odd electric and acoustic strumming here and there. Though his music nods slightly to some of the bands he played with previously, such as Crescent and Movietone, his wry warble of a voice puts him in the company of fellow genteel British eccentrics Robert Wyatt and Ray Davies, while the cheery disorder surrounding him echoes Pram and Th' Faith Healers' quieter moments. The Length of the Rail rambles and shambles, and often seems held together only by the charm of its songs and sounds: "Dust Bird Baths" begins the album with chirping and fluttering birds, croaking synth bass, and buzzing percussion that sounds like flicking the tab on a can of soda pop. Ramshackle rhythms dominate The Length of the Rail, giving the impression that Jones tapped out these amiably click-clacking and clip-clopping beats on whatever was in front of him at the moment. "Before Too Long"'s synth whistles like a robot teakettle, the title track's sparkling electronics and tiptoeing bass are a dead ringer for Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Baby, and "Chalk"'s lyrics "The overlapping/The intersecting/The colors clash/It's all right" sum up the Balky Mule's aesthetic perfectly. Despite the chaos, there is care in these songs' sounds and words. Jones notices things that could easily be neglected, like "Glass Boat"'s "fresh cold water in a hot washed glass" and "A Moth Like a Woodchip"'s beautiful title and campfire story. However, the Balky Mule does live up to its name -- the loose ends of "We Sometimes Write" and the messy instrumental "Blinking" might try the patience of listeners expecting something a little easier to digest. Still, Jones balances these moments with relatively pulled-together songs like the serene "Instead" and "Wireless," one of the album's most accessible tracks, along with the adorable stream-of-consciousness ramble "Range" and gentle closing lullaby "Tell Me Something Sweet." The Length of the Rail's songs feel like long walks; the sweet moments are all the sweeter because the Balky Mule took the scenic route to get to them.
© Heather Phares /TiVo

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The Length of the Rail

The Balky Mule

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1
Dust Bird Baths
00:04:00

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

2
Before Too Long
00:03:31

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

3
Jisaboke
00:03:32

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

4
A Moth...
00:02:52

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

5
Blinking
00:03:36

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

6
Wireless
00:03:24

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

7
Chalk
00:01:34

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

8
The Length of the Rail
00:02:15

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

9
Range
00:03:01

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

10
Illuminated Numbers
00:02:26

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

11
Paper Crane
00:03:13

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

12
Instead
00:03:35

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

13
We Sometimes Write
00:01:52

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

14
Glass Boat
00:01:59

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

15
Tell Me Something Sweet
00:03:38

The Balky Mule, Composer, MainArtist

2009 FatCat Records 2009 FatCat Records

Descrizione dell'album

It probably shouldn't be surprising that an artist going by the name the Balky Mule makes music that sounds as, well, balky as The Length of the Rail, but it certainly is refreshing. Too many "folktronica" artists polish over the quirks that make folk music and electronic music unique, somehow making it into something smoother and blander than either style on its own. That certainly can't be said of Sam Jones, who fashions the Balky Mule's music out of nothing but perfectly imperfect acoustics and electronics. Jones made his second album, The Length of the Rail, with old, often malfunctioning drum machines and keyboards, found sounds, and the odd electric and acoustic strumming here and there. Though his music nods slightly to some of the bands he played with previously, such as Crescent and Movietone, his wry warble of a voice puts him in the company of fellow genteel British eccentrics Robert Wyatt and Ray Davies, while the cheery disorder surrounding him echoes Pram and Th' Faith Healers' quieter moments. The Length of the Rail rambles and shambles, and often seems held together only by the charm of its songs and sounds: "Dust Bird Baths" begins the album with chirping and fluttering birds, croaking synth bass, and buzzing percussion that sounds like flicking the tab on a can of soda pop. Ramshackle rhythms dominate The Length of the Rail, giving the impression that Jones tapped out these amiably click-clacking and clip-clopping beats on whatever was in front of him at the moment. "Before Too Long"'s synth whistles like a robot teakettle, the title track's sparkling electronics and tiptoeing bass are a dead ringer for Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Baby, and "Chalk"'s lyrics "The overlapping/The intersecting/The colors clash/It's all right" sum up the Balky Mule's aesthetic perfectly. Despite the chaos, there is care in these songs' sounds and words. Jones notices things that could easily be neglected, like "Glass Boat"'s "fresh cold water in a hot washed glass" and "A Moth Like a Woodchip"'s beautiful title and campfire story. However, the Balky Mule does live up to its name -- the loose ends of "We Sometimes Write" and the messy instrumental "Blinking" might try the patience of listeners expecting something a little easier to digest. Still, Jones balances these moments with relatively pulled-together songs like the serene "Instead" and "Wireless," one of the album's most accessible tracks, along with the adorable stream-of-consciousness ramble "Range" and gentle closing lullaby "Tell Me Something Sweet." The Length of the Rail's songs feel like long walks; the sweet moments are all the sweeter because the Balky Mule took the scenic route to get to them.
© Heather Phares /TiVo

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