January 13, 2002

I love albums that eventually prove me wrong. Records that start out slow, or seem mediocre, that then turn on my preconceived notions, leaving me shocked by the surprise attack, and leaving me emotionally spent--it's a fetish. Nothing gives me more pleasure than hearing something that turns me off in the beginning, then pin me down and show me their stuff. My cigarette afterwards is the highly addictive phrase, "Wow, I was just impressed!" Your New Boundaries, the debut album by sadcore folkies Clairvoyants, proved me wrong just one track in.

Albums are like people; first impressions are most important. The opening track, "To Reassure," did not live up to its name. Though the song is lovely in its own way--a gentle, dark melody, complete with falling raindrop-like guitar and slow, unhurried pace, and the opening line "That city fucked you up" sung in a deep, husky voice--it just moves along at a very, very slow tempo, and doesn't have any desire to move any faster than necessary. It's possibly the weakest track on the album, but its position seems to set the tone for Your New Boundaries in a way that's much unfortunate. When the song fades and "Camera On a Track" starts, the trend seems to continue, but when singer Brian Dunn starts to sing, "When you were an invincible alcoholic" in much, much higher pitch, you start to realize that Dunn is a multi-ranged singer with a slight sense of humor.

Then you realize--the man is working in a tradition. Though Clairvoyants might be easily dismissed as another sad-core band, they clearly seem to operate outside of slow-core, even, i'd be willing to bet, in spite of slow-core. While at times Your New Boundaries does remind of Low, Red House Painters, and Codeine, they throw in enough of their own style to make their sonic stew their own. At times, Dunn sounds like a dead ringer for Dominic Appleton, former lead singer of goth-follkies Breathless. Other times, he seems clearly possessed by the spirit of Tim Buckley. With a dash of Cocteau Twins guitar, and a hint of 4AD aesthetic. Clairvoyants are honoring their stylistic tradition while clearly marking their territory and claiming their own spot, though at times, you can't help but feel that you've heard this song before. Though not overwhelmed with any obvious influences, occasional Your New Boundaries feels a bit weighted-down by its own sound, though slightly jazzier, more upbeat songs like "New Name" help to break the heavy, moody atmosphere.

Clairvoyants aren't going anywhere, and thus, they aren't in a hurry to get to wherever they want to. Though there are some moments of beauty, with some little experimental codas here and there, and the occasional brass and string, Your New Boundaries really doesn't deviate much from the guitar/vocal/brushed percussion/faint keyboard setup. Perhaps realizing that their songs could easily sound boring side by side, the band has placed several short and lovely instrumental passages between more developed numbers, which both break the possibility of monotony, yet also help to make Your New Boundaries seem like a long, cohesive whole.

Your New Boundaries is a nice, subtle debut. It's an unassuming record for a band that seems more concerned with documenting emotions than with proving anything. While Your New Boundaries is not without its flaws and imperfections, one should take comfort in knowing that this is but their debut. Clairvoyants are a band that have something to say and feelings to share, but they really aren't going to struggle with you in order to get their point across.

--Joseph Kyle

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