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Clues Tom Milway , June 16th, 2009 10:16

The piecing together of information on exactly who Canadian band Clues were required some serious sleuthing; never was a group more aptly named. Hunting for evidence across the media would draw a blank. They were a mystery band with no website, no MySpace page — nothing. Typically, this — coupled with local buzz — got the bloggers salivating at a time when a steady stream of technology-rejecting mavericks are hoping to appear deviant in their shunning of the internet for promotion. But it could have so easily backfired. And it probably would have if it weren't for the rich musical lineage in each piece of the Clues puzzle.

Originating from the same Montreal indie scene as Arcade Fire, Malajube, The Dears and Wolf Parade, Clues — we eventually discover — are principally a fusion of cremated ashes from two ex-members of local indie royalty The Unicorns (including principle songwriter Alden Penner) and one pre-Funeral member of Arcade Fire (drummer and main instrumental arranger Brendan Reed). Now, when record labels paste the phrase "ex-members of . . ." into a band's biog it's often little more than a selling point, a crayon handed to the outside world with which to join the dots and make a marketplace fit. In the case of Clues, though, the musical similarities with The Unicorns' brand of arty indie-pop are actually a very relevant starting point.

Lead track 'Haarp' gently oozes from the speakers like a No Wave soundtrack to a Warhol installation with Nico at the helm. It loiters in the ether before finally pulling away, foot to the floor, as a femme fatale vocal repeats: "Will I be able to feel the difference, when you turn me on and off?" There are hints of Kim Gordon in Penner's vocals, especially when he sings "Throw away your skin . . ." on 'Approach The Throne', which echoes Gordon's vocal on Sonic Youth's 'Shaking Hell'. In fact, Clues often reflect the indie-rock greats: 'Remember Severed Head' contains a lugubrious Pixies-esque melody that meets with the intimate esoteric lulls of Blonde Redhead. With their lofty lyrical themes — "Who here wants to sleep in the dragons mouth, who here wants to feel?" — it's clear that Clues are aiming for the same kind of grandiose air as their main-stage contemporaries Arcade Fire. This is also evident on 'Approach The Throne' and in the piano line on 'Perfect Fit', both tracks fusing classic Russian folk waltz influence with modern indie-pop sensibilities.

Elsewhere on the record, hazy psychedelic dirges have all the sepia tone shades of a depressed Beach House. Comedown ballad 'Elope' is so hungover it teeters off the edge of the highway into a similarly bleak, morose landscape as that occupied by Nico's The Marble Index. This sense of solitude is all well and good but it doesn't see Clues playing to their real strengths. This point is proven when the track that follows — 'Cave Mouth' — jumps straight out of leftfield, an intricate, mathy post-hardcore juggernaut. As a debut album Clues hints at a diverse and interesting puzzle, but one that's yet to be completed; during its very best moments, however, it's clear that the band's members have stumbled upon the path toward assembling these disparate parts.