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As Good As Gone Noel Gardner , September 16th, 2009 07:40

In a nerdish, outside-looking-in kind of way, it's always pretty gratifying to see an independent label stick to its guns and stay on its feet doing so. Kranky Records of Chicago rarely release instant-gratification music, and in any event the clouds of ether-bursting fuzz, pastel shades, judiciously handled electronics and obtuse song titles that crop up in an overwhelming proportion of its back catalogue aren't for everyone. Perhaps tellingly, the best known bands to emerge from Kranky – Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Low and Deerhunter – never quite tallied with their labelmates. Nudge very much do. This is their second album for the label (fourth in total); members were/are variously in Kranky bands Fontanelle, Strategy and Valet, and the trio's initial member Brian Foote has produced Atlas Sound and Lotus Plaza, both Deerhunter spinoffs on Kranky.

A cosy li'l incest-fest with a cute painting of a dog and a lamb on the cover, then. But does it have jack squat to offer anyone who isn't a socially maladjusted beardo (and that's just the women etc), skull permanently a-rattle as hundreds of tour CDRs and mailorder seven-inches crash into one another inside their daft head? By all means, ACTUALLY, and I'll thank you not to talk about me like that. As Good As Gone is obscure – in terms of its aesthetic, not how well-known the group is – and shrouded, but it's not a harsh listen by any sensible standards, and contains moments of tangible beauty. Nudge's Honey Owens, aka Valet, also plays in Portland experimental cultists Jackie-O Motherfucker, and the lightness of touch she's brought to that band is also apparent here.

With only seven tracks, one being less than 60 seconds long, coming in under 40 minutes, Nudge's personal sense of ambition doesn't manifest itself in epic pomposity. Opener 'Harmo' comes off a lot like Owens was its primary creator, and not just because she sings (or, if you're traditionalist in these matters, 'sings' perhaps) on it. Harmoniums wheeze, drone and give way to wackjob spacerock bloop and tinkling hand percussion in intriguing if not quite revolutionary fashion.

'Two Hands' slithers into your brain from maybe three different angles of genre: a clattery avant-folk sense of sonic mischief, dubby post-punk bass that camps alongside Bark Psychosis and The Durutti Column among many others, and, in Owens' vocals, something you wouldn't have been shocked to hear on a mind-90s trip-hop record. In the context of As Good As Gone this isn't problematic. 'Aurolac' and 'Tito' maintains a similar sense of spaciousness, elastic-bounce drumming and gloomy, nocturnal minor chords at a kind of edgy peace with one another, abetted by ticklish rootsy improv a la Sunburned Hand Of The Man. Fifteen years ago, they might have made its way onto the legendary-among-some Macro Dub Infection compilations, alongside bands like Laika and Tortoise – the stuff that got called post-rock before the gatekeepers shuffled on and it presently came to mean any old band with no vocals and a lot of pedals.

Despite its array of positive elements, and the ability to turn the odd and aleatory into the conventionally listenable, Nudge have few Unique Selling Points, from their forgettable name onwards – in a world with more than enough droney, folk-inflected experimentalism for those who desire it, you fear As Good As Gone may end up being what In The Loop called “meat in the room” – meat in the record racks. A review telling you it shouldn't be is my best shot.