Oddball Brooklyn brother/sister duo The Fiery Furnaces may be best known for singer Eleanor Friedberger being Alex Franz’ current squeeze, and for drummer Andy Knowles (not officially classed as being part of the band) recently being instilled as a part-time member of the band, but with Rehearsing My Choir they’ve made a third full-length album which is both beguiling and unique.
In equal parts Beefheart-esque weirdness, harpsichord pianos, Eleanor’s deadpan vocals/narrative and random electronic squelches, what makes the record even stranger is that it follows the life story of the Friedbergers’ 83 year-old grandmother Olga Sarantos, and her gravelly, ambiguous spoken tones grace much of the album.
It’s quite obvious that this is a groundbreaking piece of work, although the question is whether or not it’s really listenable in its entirety? Songs run into each other, repeating the same mournful piano phrase throughout, and it takes at least a couple of listens to work out where the Furnaces’ heads are at. It does seem very much as if they’ve created a piece of musical art as opposed to the regular pop album, and although it is an effort to listen to in one go, it’s still one of the most refreshing and eye-opening things you’ll hear all year.
(Rough Trade Records)