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Mary Lorson & Billy Coté | Piano Creeps (Cooking Vinyl)
Although classic indie-rock perennials Madder Rose may have dissolved after 1999's fourth and final album 'Hello June Fool,' the core partnership of Mary Lorson and Billy Coté has not, thankfully, been permanently severed.  The two songwriters have regularly intermingled in each other's solo projects - Saint Low (Lorson) and The Jazz Cannon (Coté) - as well as working together on a number of TV and Film soundtracks.  Now over-spilling from these continued collaborative waves comes this largely instrumental album.  But rather than being a mopped mess of leftover song snippets or abortive ideas, 'Piano Creeps' captures Coté and Lorson in remarkably rejuvenated condition.  The home-baked production and loose instrumentation (analogue synths, piano, organs, violin, live drums, programmed percussion, moogs, samplers, treated guitars et al.) gives the duo (complemented by some versatile guest musicians) room to stretch out into new terrain without, as Lorson recently put it, worrying about "getting to the chorus."  However, this doesn't mean that the twosome's intrinsic grasp of melody is lost in the process.  Quite the contrary, 'Piano Creeps' is rammed full of rapturous hooks and many memorable moments.  The duo burrow deep into the depths of their diverse record collections to seek inspiration for some strange and sublime combinations.  Thus the crunchy electro-dub of E Guitar could be a guitar-heavy outtake from Primal Scream's 'Vanishing Point' whilst the wintry violin-heavy Newfield Baptist Church sounds like Godspeed You Black Emperor after a prog-rock debugging.  Elsewhere, the spine-tingling music-box strains of the title-track might easily form the basis of an Eastern European ballet score.  Inevitably there's also some cross-fertilisation with Lorson and Coté's past and present projects, but that's no bad thing.  The urbanite grooves of 'Dig A Hole' are certainly a welcome steal from Coté's Jazz Cannon's oeuvre and the baroque balladry of Americana#1 (one of three vocal tracks) is a warm echo of Lorson's Saint Low albums.  Moreover, those of us still mourning Madder Rose's sad demise will be heartened by the twangy Near End Theme (a flashback to the late great band's sole instrumental cut Pocket Fulla Medicine) and the dreamy-pop of See The Stars (another vocal track, reminiscent of the group's overlooked 1997 album 'Tragic Magic').  Experimental but emotionally expressive, this is a wide-eyed little wonder, ripe and ready for art house cinemas and indie-boy bedrooms alike.  And if we lived in a fair world this album would shake the foundations of the instrumental-rock world and point charisma-free charlatans like Mogwai, in the direction of the nearest dole queue.  If only...

Adrian Pannett
January-February 2003