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  Making Aeroplanes Out of Our Bodies  
  Ashburne Glen  
  Plymouth Rawk/TinArc Records  
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Making Aeroplanes Out of Our Bodies by Ashburne Glen is an album best reviewed in summer. Although its cover art reminds me of gothic British winters, the music evokes sunny California days playing in the park barefoot, flying kites, and wearing beads… or, perhaps even the soundtrack to Love Story. Ashburne Glen are often compared to Belle and Sebastian, but to me, the music is even more purely retro: I am reminded directly of America in the 60s, especially love songs a la The Byrds and CSN.

Making Aeroplanes Out of Our Bodies is primarily the brainchild of Texas musician Jason Hensel and includes a collection of other local artists. The songs explore esoteric themes of love with simple guitar, keyboard, and organ. Most of the album is slow and quiet, especially the first half, which includes tracks that at times become a bit repetitive. The lyrics on these early tracks are often vague and leave the listener feeling that they only know half of a conversation between two lovers. Unlike their 60s predecessors, Ashburne Glen do not delve deeply into social issues or philosophy, but mostly stick to simple themes of romantic love.

The second half of the album picks up speed and sound, featuring songs like Letdown, which highlights stronger guitar rifts and a more driving tempo, and Executioner’s Road, a saloon-piano inspired ditty that speaks of Old West justice. These later songs make evident another retro-aspect of the album, however: recorded on a simple four-track, many of the more sophisticated compositions sound muddy and uneven.

The vocals suffer most from the recording, taking a backseat at times to the piano and heavier guitar. This situation is partially due to the fact that the singing is much more subdued and whispery than similar bands like Belle and Sebastian whose vocals have a stronger solo presence and a decidely British dialect. Though Making Aeroplanes Out of Our Bodies generally features solo singing, most tracks could easily have been harmonized, which may have strengthened its musical impact.

Perhaps the greatest strength and weakness of Making Aeroplanes Out of Our Bodies is its nostalgic West Coast feel, including all the grit of analog vinyl recordings and the simplicity of soft lyrics and keyboard accompaniment. The cd evidences the band’s early stages of development, including strong musicianship and solid arrangements, but it is a bit too directly derivative of folk and in need of a unique twist or more powerful presence. The band recently completed the recording of their second album, and I look forward to a more complex approach and sophisticated sound.

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