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Peals -- 'Walking Field' (Thrill Jockey)( Handout / June 10, 2013 )
RATING: ** 1/2 out of 4
After Double Dagger called it quits in the fall of 2011, its members moved on to different projects. Singer Nolen Strals fronts the ferocious band Pure Junk, while drummer Denny Bowen now takes center stage as the lead singer of the fiery quartet Roomrunner.
While his former bandmates have continued thrashing away, Bruce Willen (Double Dagger's bassist) has gone the opposite direction with Peals, a two-man instrumental band with William Cashion, bassist of Future Islands. "Walking Field," the duo's debut album, is a small but charming record that sounds like an appropriate soundtrack for a lazy summer night by a fire.
There's a gentle, hazy touch to all of the album's eight tracks. Even when the pace quickens -- as it does on the dreamy opener "Floating Leaf" and when the bursts of intricate guitar picking kick in on "Tiptoes in the Parlor" -- "Walking Field" remains firmly grounded in its languid approach.
Most of the album plays like the sonic equivalent of riding a tube down a slow river. It relaxes and calms a listener to the point where a nap could be in order. That's not always a bad thing, but the extended lulls -- such as the mostly feedback-and-atmosphere "Believers" -- could use less cerebral meditation and a hint of more muscle and melody.
On "Pendelles" and the closer "Koan 1," Peals wisely injects cello, played be Kate Barutha (a member of Adam Lempel and the Heartbeats and Soft Cat), for a welcomed new dynamic. The drama added by the cello elevates "Walking Field" from a pleasant, monochromatic album to something more complex and emotionally resonant. It also hints that Peals is capable of more. --Wesley Case