Saddle Creek | Old Canes | Reviews


Feral Harmonic

Author: Jeff Ignatius
10/08/2009 | River Cities Reader | | Live Show Preview
The origin of the folk and rock (but not folk-rock) group Old Canes is a promoter who didn't accept "no."

Christopher Crisci was touring Europe with his band, Applessed Cast, in 2001. "The promoter for this tour that we were doing asked us if we wanted to do some in-store acoustic shows, and we told him 'no,'" Crisci said this week. The experimental band uses lots of effects and delay, and "it just doesn't translate that well acoustic."

That should have been the end, but the man was undaunted. "After one of the shows, he's like, 'Okay, now we're going to the store; we're going to do the acoustic show.' I was like, 'We don't do that, but I have some folk songs.'"

That show spurred singer/guitarist Crisci to record his folk songs, and Old Canes' Early Morning Hymns was released in 2004. The band's second album, Feral Harmonic, will be out three days after the group's October 17 performance at RIBCO, which also happens to be the Reader's 16th-birthday party.

Crisci's definition of "folk" is expansive, it must be noted. Feral Harmonic's "Intro" has a blast of what sounds like electric guitar. It's actually a distorted and delayed organ, Crisci explained, and there's also a distorted cello that mimics a guitar.

"I wanted to get some kind of chaos or some chaotic feeling in there," Crisci said of that track and two others on the forthcoming record. "I kind of pulled from my punk-rock roots."

Speaking about his music overall, he explained: "It is as much or more rock than it is folk, but I also hear a lot of folk in it. And I'm reluctant to call it 'folk rock' because of what folk rock sounds like. I'm comfortable with it being 'rock' or 'folk.' But to me it's both things."

These songs are mostly acoustic guitar and voice, but they tend toward fast and urgent, and there are often big drums, oddball instruments for folk (trumpet, glockenspiel), and a wide dynamic range, sometimes building to rock-sized climaxes. "Sweet" collapses in the middle and becomes a raucous, Eastern-tinged workout.

It's folk in the sense of traditional core instruments but rock in the way it uses them.

Yet there's also "Black Hills Chapel," which could be a field recording, as the stringed instruments build to a backwoods crescendo.

The homemade sound of Old Canes' albums was an artistic choice, Crisci said. The aim is to retain the performance vitality, even if it comes at the expense of pristine sound quality and polish.

The release of Early Morning Hymns, he said, was delayed for roughly a year because the label wanted to remix the album. The bandleader himself had mixed it, but it was too lo-fi for some at the record company. So two other people took a crack at it, but Crisci's version emerged as the winner.

"I definitely wanted it to be lo-fi," he said. "Some styles of music lose out when the attention is on the production and not just trying to juice the recording for all the energy it can deliver."

Old Canes will perform at the River Cities' Reader 16th-birthday party on Saturday, October 17, at RIBCO (1815 Second Avenue in Rock Island). The show starts at 8 p.m., and the bill also includes The Blakes (performing second) and Rocket Park (performing third). Cover is $5.

For more information on Old Canes, visit or
Feral Harmonic

Feral Harmonic

LP / CD / MP3


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Feral Harmonic

Feral Harmonic

LP / CD / MP3


All »

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