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Clairvoyants - Your New Boundaries



Ah, the sweet beauty of melancholy. Clairvoyants are a Cambridge, Mass., quintet built around the songs of frontman Brian Dunn. Haunting and lush, this music is also nicely barbed: The album's opening number starts with the line, "That city fucked you up." What better way to talk of loss, estrangement and fractured circumstances than by tempering it with stately and elegant sonics, gorgeous and hypnotically layered--it's that old yin-yang deal, you know, two halves making a whole and all that. Even the song titles slice like a paper cut inside a kiss: "To Reassure," "For Granted," "After the Accident," "Surface of the Water," "To Harm." Often starting with a solitary electric guitar, the purposeful arrangements positively shimmer. Flourishes are deployed sparingly, a keyboard here, a trumpet there. This is gorgeous music--not merely pretty, but the emotionally deep workings of true beauty.

By David Greenberger


In Music We Trust

Every once in a while I hear a record that is slow, soft, and very pretty, the kind of record you can put on, and not even notice it for awhile. Then, all-of-a-sudden, you hear it and it hits you, as you automatically feel everything, and quickly scramble to remember what you're listening to. Once you do, you sink into the songs, allowing the tenderness to just set you at ease. Clairvoyants' Your New Boundaries is that type of an album, a record that has jazz and folk influences, shows its dark side, as well as its peaceful side. It lays it all on the line, and if you don't like it, it doesn't care. It is going to keep going no matter what. If you take it off your CD player, it will find another CD player to play on. It's mellow, pretty, and well written, with the right amount of raindrop-like acoustic guitar, faint instrumentation, and such a laid-back, easy-going nature to it, you feel right at home whenever you're listening to it. I'll give it an A. (Alex Steininger)


Fake Jazz

The music of Your New Boundaries has a presence that is difficult to describe. The songs are emotional and have a heavy, melancholy sound that drapes over you like a blanket. I suppose this is a result of the mixture of sleepy, thick guitars and Brian Dunn's vocals, which remind me of an older, glamorous singing style. He croons full, sustained notes that are confident but brooding and melancholy. Despite the seemingly quiet style, this album is vibrant and dramatic. It is full of poetic lyrics and the music has enough emotional intensity and variety to accompany them. Horns, double bass, organ, and other keyboards supplement the guitars and drums. The drumming is varied in texture, but is often brushed, and the sound mixes well with the guitars since they are light and echoey and almost otherworldly. One song that is a lovely example of all of the above is "New Name." This song is kind of the black sheep of the album, since the rhythm is more varied and exotic than in other songs, since it is made with bongo drums along with the standard drums. The guitar is also livelier, although it still has the light, sad tone of other songs. There are Dunn's smooth vocals, a muted, jazzy trumpet, and the double bass adding to the feeling that this song was dug up from the past. Like other songs on the album, it's a little mysterious.

A song that has a more typical style for Your New Boundaries is "For Granted," in which lightly strummed electric guitar echoes by itself then gradually gets fuller. A cello (?) comes in, followed by an organ and drums that are light on the symbols and brushed. All this plus the vocals makes a flowing, light backdrop for poignant lyrics: "Once things are granted we come to expect things we don't deserve." Another beautiful song is the title track, which is simply gentle vocals and acoustic guitar that is full of motion and light. The lyrics in this song (as in others) are kind of complex and the meaning isn't always clear, but they are nice to listen to, and in the end, that is what's most important, I think.

In fact, this entire album is nice to listen to. It's earnest, poetic, and, most of all, it's beautiful, seductive music.


The National Indiequirer

At first glance Cambridge, Massachusetts' Clairvoyants' debut, Your New Boundaries, appears to be another atmospheric album of heavy delay space rock with no vocals. and then the vocals kick in and the music swirls around front man Brian Dunn's gloomy vocals. There are no "upbeat" numbers that you would find on similar artist's albums such as Jeff Buckley, Mercury Rev, or Red House Painters, but Dunn and the Clairvoyants do slow and mellow as well as any of those artists.

While never changing tempo or intensity, the music of Your New Boundaries remains consistently powerful through the album. The waltz like "For Granted" is emotional but never sappy and has qualities of the 50's surf ballad, "Sleepwalker." On "Interlude" Dunn asks, "How is your memory? Does it lapse? Mine is like a metal trap, it all comes back, but hauntingly." The same can be said of the music of the Clairvoyants.

The Clairvoyants are as serious as a heart attack, so don't look for light hearted covers or false emotions here. Dunn even covers the subject of a son at his father's funeral on "The Hungry Ghosts." The music sets the tone for Dunn's words and the long musical interludes lay the groundwork for heavy emotional territory.

Sweet, yet bitter. Soft and serene. Dunn takes us trough all of is emotions and transfers them to us. Many have tried to pull the listener into their music and most are not as successful as the Clairvoyants at doing so.



If, like many philosophers and writers have mused, the joy of life is derived in its surprises and unexpected turns, even the unpleasant ones, being a clairvoyant, one who sees visions of the future, must be a pretty rough life. Anticipation, suspense, surprises, be it opening presents on Christmas day or the thrill of finding an unexpected romance, would be lost to the graces of a supernatural cognizance.

Clairvoyants' Your New Boundaries doesn't lay out the difficulties of an oracle's life, though its tone is certainly one that hints at the sorrow that's certainly to come along with the demise of the "future's an empty page" outlook on life, with songs that mix low-key melodies in a swirling fog of melancholy that's anything but over-the-top. Clairvoyants don't mince around with overblown sentimentality or blatant tear-jerking; Your New Boundaries rallies mature guitar pop for a good honest cry. Let the kiddies with their Dashboard Confessional worry about making a bad impression on the cutie in fourth period; Clairvoyants know that a bit of good bone-rattling melancholy beats the skin-deep hysterics of melodrama any day.

While the band's haunting sound will appeal to fans of everyone from Wheat to Mojave 3 to Arab Strap, it's clear the band isn't going to be content to compile a best-of style from the leaders in mope-core. There'll always be similarities between such blue songsters, especially ones who come from the same era, but Clairvoyants aren't going to be mistaken for their contemporaries, that's for sure. Songs move by at a pace that's somewhere between those of a snail and a glacier, though use their languid tempos to build layered and somber songs, from the mix of ethereal keyboards and comfortably numb guitar work ("For Granted") to tracks that are hollow guitar and voice melodies ("Yes, I Waited a Year").

There's no put-on emotions, no ratcheting up the drama or hyperactive sensitivity on Your New Boundaries. Sure, that makes getting into some of its songs a bigger job, but it ultimately preserves the band's prize jewel: its honesty. This album isn't a ready-made tale of teen drama or twentysomething angst; it's a long, cold look at less-formulaic glimpses of real life.



Your New Boundaries begins slowly and softly, and never gets much louder or faster, but it never has to. Brian Dunn's hush of a voice is right up front in the mix, pulling the listener into each song with intimate and striking lyrics. Telling brooding stories of melancholy, Dunn makes every word seem significant, leaving nothing to indecision or accident; well crafted might be an understatement. "That city fucked you up, like everybody does, it does to everyone/And my demands wore you down, like everbody does, they have to everyone" he begins on the first track, "To Reassure." It's powerful and poetic lyrics such as those opening lines that provide the immediate sense of emotion and power to this record.

His voice shows the rare ability of being both vulnerable and confident, often at the same time, such as the intro to "Yes, I Waited a Year...," where he sings those words a cappela, and then is joined solely by his own nylon string guitar. Stylistically, his voice brings to mind Morrisey, or a tenor version of Tindersticks' Stuart Staples' croon.

The instrumentation is simple, to the point, and played with a high standard of less is more aesthetic. Shimmering guitars ride over the heavy, yet delicately played rhythm section of Joe McMahon on double bass and Stever Scully on on drums. Engineer and musical contributor Colin Rhinesmith makes his mark as synth, trumpet and other ambient sounds filter in and out, specifically on the organ instruments "Interlude" and the backwards loops of "Surface of the Water." As much as this record stands as a showcase for Dunn's songs and voice, these talented folks behind him often shine in their supporting roles.

Your New Boundaries is a world unto itself, to be taken in and digested as a singular performance. Clairvoyants obviously take their work seriously, and listening to their haunting and somber songs you have no choice but to do the same. This is an amazing and important album, and marks the arrival of a true and unique talent.

--Jesse Perkins



Slow, haunting, and sparse. Cambridge five piece Clairvoyants are a lesson in subdued restraint. The band's tunes creep by slowly and feature echoed instruments that support casual vocals. The compositions on Your New Boundaries are extremely slow methodical pieces. The tunes are methodical and hypnotic, often retreating to the bare bones essentials of one instrument and/or vocal. The main point of all music should be to get the point across, and this is what makes this CD so intriguing. Using very little, Clairvoyants manage to get their point across quite clearly. Main singer/songwriter Brian Dunn has a very personal vocal style that makes these tunes most inviting. At times, this band's material comes across like a slowed down version of The Durutti Column (particular the guitars). At other times the music sounds something like a more modern and atmospheric version of Donovan (or even Bert Jansch for that matter). If you're looking for upbeat energy, look elsewhere. If you're in the mood for slow and strange restraint, this band will most certainly hit the target. Definitely NOT like other bands currently on the horizon... (Rating: 4+++)


Weekly Dig

From the opening lines, the listener is instantly intoxicated by the passionate, brooding vocals that float slowly over the atmospheric guitars and gentle drums. The lyrics are intimate and present the sounds of a new sadness. These are the reflections of a heavy heart slowed further by sorrow, and presented with purity. Brian Dunn sings with a complex lyrical structure that guides you through 14 narrative expressions of pain. His lament is so strong that a bottle of wine and some painkillers may be your only possible listening companions; either that or the Clairvoyants themselves-they live just across the river. Yes, even Cambridge breeds sadness. (Nolan Gawron)



Clairvoyants est le projet d'un certain Brian Dunn, Américain originaire de Cambridge MA et qu'on avait déjà pu croiser au sein de Freakwater ou du Cath Carrol Band.

Si Brian Dunn assure chant et guitare, il a su s'entourer de quatre musiciens qui emmènent ses compositions dans des sphères sublimes de sophistication veloutée, jazzy et vaporeuse, au moyen de piano, claviers, mélodica, samples, basse, percussions, batterie jazz, trompette ou flugelhorn.

On serait tenté de rattacher Clairvoyants au wagon slowcore, car de lenteur et de mélancolie il est nettement question ici. Si « slow » colle, par contre, « core » semble moins approprié. Pas de tension ici, pas la moindre envolée upbeat, juste un calme abyssal, une contemplation ininterrompue, une monotonie qui met en relief des ondes de subtilité douce-amère.

S'il faut tracer quelques traits au crayon, ce sera avec Big Star, Low, Radar Bros, Mazzy Star, This Mortal Coil ou Spain, mais Clairvoyants est encore plus calme et monotone. Pas une vague au compteur mais autant de dérives languides et élégiaques au fil de l'eau, une puissance émettrice continue et constante comme un feu ouvert qui continue à éclairer, hanter, la nuit, la pièce de part en part.

« You new boundaries » est comme un collier de perles que l'on égrène, uniformes à première vues, mais les nuances ne cessent alors d'apparaître et de se révéler comme les milliers de nuances de couleur du ciel.

« Your new Boundaries » est comme la surface sombre d'un étang que rien n' agite, émeut ou réveille. Les yeux dérivent et s'arrêtent sur les berges. Puis peu à peu le regard colle à la surface de l'eau et s'enfonce dans ces profondeurs que traversent des poissons étranges.

C'est qu'il faut quelques écoutes avant que ce disque « étrange » fasse des effets. Des hautes doses qui ne créent pas d'overdose et c'est parti, on prend part et devient élément de la même dérive.

Dès les premières secondes de « to reassure », on pénètre dans un calme quasi religieux qu'on ne quittera plus. A l'image de la pochette, « your new boundaries » est une longue ballade sous des cieux nuageux, entre bruine et éclaircies timides.

Et ce sont ces éclaircies timides où parfois une clarté intervient que l'on traquera sous toutes ses formes ici présentes. Le chant de Brian Dunn sur camera on a track » par exemple, a plus à voir avec celui de This Mortal Coil que de Mark Koselek. L'instrumental « After the accident » aurait d' ailleurs pu se trouver sur le « Filigree & Shadow » de This Mortal Coil ou le « The Moon & the melodies » cosigné Harold Budd & Cocteau Twins. C'est qu 'on devine en Brian Dunn un vieil accroc des productions eighties de 4ad - l 'âge d'or du label anglais.

Chacune des quatorze plages s'écoule, semblables et uniques à la fois, nous rendant à chaque écoute le disque plus précieux encore. « Your new boundaries » n'est pas un disque facile à mettre entre toutes les oreilles, pas une ouvre qui gagne sa place par la force, par coups de poker. C'est plutôt un disque que l'on accueille dans son intérieur comme un coussin supplémentaire sur lequel poser la tête pour rêvasser et somnoler agréablement. Et en cela c'est un très grand disque.



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