September 18, 2012 - Triple Crown
On O'Brother's sprawling debut full-length, 2011's Garden Window, the band were wonderfully adept at drawing out six-, seven- and even 14-minute epics with a luminous, compelling array of instrumentation and layering. That skill's not quite as apparent with the more sparse conditions of Basement Window, where the band take a handful of that album's tracks and deconstruct them from the bottom up. Still, it's an enjoyable and interesting alteration.
These newly recorded versions integrate haunting acoustic and electric guitar layers into humming chamber pieces, and while it sets a hell of a mood, it does strip the band considerably of their brilliant dynamics. Basement Window essentially flows with the ambience of a Mogwai B-side: an almost too-gentle, smooth procession with few crests or valleys. Granted, the melodies are given a little more space to breathe, and O'Brother really get creative with the last two tracks: "Malum," formerly a creepy mid-tempo intro of sneering and howling, becomes an interlude wall of Gothic choir voices and smeary post-rock atmosphere, and the surprising, glitchy redux of closer "Poison!" resembles Jesu's Justin Broadrick getting his Nine Inch Nails on.