Thursday, January 03, 2008

Damon & Naomi Reviewed On

Life beyond Galaxie 500: The enduring beauty of Damon and Naomi

Over two decades --- first as the rhythm section of Galaxie 500 and then on a series low-key studio albums --- Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang have mastered the art of intimacy.

But on Damon and Naomi’s sixth studio release, “Within These Walls” (Domino), the couple pulls off a neater trick. If any album can be said to sound “quietly bold,” this is it.

The guitarist Michio Kurihara, a full-time member of the Japanese psychedelic band Ghost, has been partnering with the couple for several years, and his playing is more integral to the Damon and Naomi sound than ever. Kurihara’s solo punctuates “Stars Never Fade” with the kind of ferocity rarely heard on the group’s previous albums. And when his guitar curls around Yang’s beautifully deadpan voice on “The Well,” they evoke the plangent interplay of Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson in the iconic folk-rock band Fairport Convention.

The arrangements are also fleshed out by strings and horns, which at their best help the couple’s somewhat plain voices underline the complex emotions in their lyrics. But occasionally the soprano saxophone comes off as a sugary jazz-lite distraction --- surprising, given that the musician in question is the normally reliable Bhob Rainey.

But that quibble aside, “Within These Walls” does a good job of escorting one of rock’s most self-effacing couples out of the shadows and into a more brightly lit space, where their exquisite songs can be more properly appreciated.

Damon & Namoi will end their Within These Walls tour in Japan. They will be joined by Michio Kurihara (electric guitar), Bhob Rainey (soprano sax), and Helena Espvall (cello) .

01/19 Osaka, JPN @ Knave
01/21 Tokyo, Shibuya, JPN @ O-Nest
01/22 Tokyo, Shibuya, JPN @ O-Nest

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