Cowboy Junkies - Renmin Park

by Matt Massara Rating:4.5 Release Date:2010-10-24

With Cowboy Junkies fast approaching the 20th album mark, an achievement far beyond the average band, you would be hard pushed to give an extensive analysis of how Cowboy Junkies have developed to their current album, but the band that originated from Toronto, set the standard for the remainder of their 18-month project. Renmin Park, the first of four volumes, in the ambitious Nomad series is a compelling listen. The influences of guitarist Michael Timmins' recent travels to China are apparent from the off, with the opening track, aptly titled 'Intro', proving this. Immediately there is an immersion of diegetic sound which feels as though you've just stepped into a 1950s band march, before effortlessly blending into sounds of quaint Chinese city culture.

The album's title track has a particularly dark vibe, and one of deep rumination. Lingering notes create strong imagery of isolation, which is reinforced by unconstrained and seemingly impromptu piano fills. Good uses of the band's favoured acoustic sounds, as well as diverse engineered diegetic sounds make for an interesting array of songs. The unconventional decision to use fabricated sounds as a prevailing element for certain songs in the album can, at times, be to its detriment. The closing song 'Coda' sounds like it was created using the band's answering machine and would be most at home in a Ukrainian T-Mobile advert.

Luckily, the cultural sensations work far better and the echoing acoustics of the vocals settle nicely within each track. The vocals transcend effortlessly with violin interludes, which epitomises the album's tone. The pace of Renmin Park is unrestrained by time and flows at its desired pace, which, at times, dawdles its way through particular tracks. You won't be hearing any of these tracks at the disco, but if you want relief from your busy and absorbing world, then this could be worth a listen. So is Renmin Park worthy of your hard earned pocket money? That depends. Should you break into Rolf Harris' house? Only if you are a long time admirer and know what to expect.

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