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Muskoka - Isn't it beautiful out there (Moki Records)

I can't believe this is a band. It's so softly spoken and bare boned, you'd think it was all done by the one guy; but, no, Muskoka is a band. And a pretty good band at that. While their name comes from a placename in Ontario, Canada, these lads hail from Bognor Regis in England. For a four-piece (that I was convinced were a one piece), they have a hugely vast sound. They probably placed their amps about 500 miles apart while recording to get that perfect wide-open, atmospheric, soundscape they call music down perfectly.

Opener 'This is your hurricane' is interesting enough to make you want to listen on. The subtle guitar riff is complemented by the soft effects that drift about in the background, which lends the whole song a Radiohead, circa "OK Computer", feel. The title track is much better, keeping the same calm mood flowing, up until the bass enters. Imagine Skiptrace and The Frames fighting over who can do a better build-up, in the desert, at midnight and you've got a fair idea where this is going. Fans of Radiohead's quieter moments ('Street spirit', 'No surprises') will probably love this band, as will those of you who loved the more laid back moments on the Foo Fighter's last album. Eels fans too, maybe.

'Duet' has more of an upbeat touch to it, without ever resorting to being happy (God forbid). Meanwhile wide-open space instrumental 'The love I'm missing' breathes a breath of fresh Canadian air to the album, while at the same time adding a touch of Air. From about 'Joe Meek' things go a little bit arseways, forgettable and sadly Starsailor sounding. It's with the trippy, built on a huge Primal Scream bass riff sounding 'Younger for longer' that Muskoka regain their form, however, and quite disappointingly this is short lived and the second half of the album never really revives the standard that was set on the first half. 'French space mission', closer 'The confidence song' and 'Synthetic happiness' are good, but sadly, not very special. Maybe next time they'll achieve total perfection.

Ken McGrath

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