Saddle Creek | Broken Spindles | Reviews



Author: Matt Schild
04/15/2004 | | | Album Review
For much of its relatively short lifespan, the electro-indie-punk crossover arena was more rooted in new-wave record collections than the forward-thinking slant that electronic instrumentation used to imply. For every laptronic experimenter there are five or six other neu-wave bozos who stumbled upon vintage synths at a Flock of Seagulls garage sale.

Broken Spindles' sophomore release brings a much needed change of emphasis to the indie-electronic world, as Fulfilled/Complete's programs and midi-driven tunes have more in common with Warp Records' tricksters than the gangs of waver-rockers sucking up to the DFA. One part tripped-out midi sounds, layered beats and electronic spazz-down and one part lush, orchestrated instrumentals, Broken Spindles becomes a band unto itself with this album, rather than the soundtrack-writing side project of its debut.

The Spindles don't just grow into its newfound identity because they pen an album rather than a soundtrack. That sure helps, but what really gets it going is the addition of vocals and extra instrumentation. While the band's previous outing was a half-conceived effort at exploring instrumental textures, Joel Petersen, who also plays bass for The Faint, delivers a fully rounded sound that doesn't rely upon computer-tweaked sounds for its lifeblood. Sure, the midi sounds are there they still provide the band its backbone but there's a world of new depth on this record. The whir and buzz of digital synths carries the melody in "Fall in and Down On" over the ever-present click of digital high-hat beats and a thump of a club kick, though the flourishes of violin give the track a bit of depth and warmth amid the chilly programming. Peterson's chilly vocals do, too, though they tie the band to The Faint's new-wave revivalism. A guitar weaves its way through a labyrinth of pre-amp synths on "Events and Affairs" that gives the tick-tock of its electronic beat a randy edge, while "The Dream" features heavy synths and string arrangements that make otherwise ho-hum programming rather interesting.

Just when you start to think that Petersen's simply an orchestral-pop digital boy, however, he pulls out a few new tricks. A crisp piano sits at the center of "Practice, Practice, Preach," and gives the track a real-world grounding, despite its textured beats and atmospheric sounds, that's far removed from the hard edges of electronic music. Similarly, the "Song No Song" piano interlude smashes the concept that Broken Spindles is a personal-computing fetish.

Pedersen obviously has a love for electronic music, but he's not constrained by it. Nor does he fiddle around with self-consciously pressing boundaries with an organic/electronic hybrid, either. Fulfilled/Complete certainly merges the two worlds, but it's in a casual, off-handed way akin to Statistics' hybrid theory rather than The Faint or The Rapture's electronic/organic Frankensteins.

That could make Broken Spindles a regretfully challenging band, but it doesn't. Pedersen eases off the experiments enough to produce likable tunes that aren't too far-flung from those of his full-time band. Squarepusher Broken Spindles is not don't come looking for the latest tech-head sounds but it mercifully looks past 1984's new-wave heyday for its inspiration.


LP / CD / MP3