First Appeared at The Music Box, June 2004, Volume 11, #6
Written by T.J. Simon
Broken Spindles is the techno/electronica outlet of Joel Petersen, bass player for Omaha’s Goth/New-Wave band The Faint on the hotter-than-blazes Saddle Creek label (home of Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, and Azure Ray). The twist Petersen brings to the electronica table on Broken Spindles’ second album Fulfilled/Complete is the incorporation of live violins, violas, and cellos into his compositions. This combination gives much of the album the ambient mood of a soundtrack for an unmade, postmodern feature film, and this is probably no coincidence since the first Broken Spindles album was, in fact, originally conceived as a movie score.
Half of the tracks on Fulfilled/Complete are instrumental, and they are the best of the bunch. Typically, a Broken Spindles’ instrumental begins sparsely with a simple keyboard playing a space-y melody. Gradually, other musical elements are added to the mix — including drum machines, basslines, string section, synths, and guitars — until a cohesive, dance-able wall of sound emerges. The best examples of this composition style are the tracks Song No Song, Induction, and Practice, Practice, Preach. Generally speaking, electronica instrumentals such as these frequently run the risk of sounding boring and repetitive, but Petersen does a terrific job of keeping things fresh, interesting, and alive.
The weakest moments on Fulfilled/Complete are the five tracks with Petersen on vocals. Compelling musical beds are marred by his poor singing voice, thus making otherwise solid tunes sound like Nine Inch Nails-lite or Depeche Mode-heavy. A robotic vocal delivery á la U2’s 1993 single Numb sounds contrived and derivative on Broken Spindles’ To Die, For Death, and the new-wavy Move Away also fails to get off the ground thanks to some sorry singing.
Taken as a whole, Broken Spindles’ Fulfilled/Complete is worth a visit, based upon the strength of the innovative instrumental tracks and tight production. It would be interesting to hear Petersen produce other artists’ work since his knack for laying down compelling electronica music is clearly unparalleled. He should, however, leave the singing to the pros.
Fulfilled/Complete is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box