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Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds

He Poos Clouds
Blocks Recording Club - 2006

Michael Panontin
Multi-instrumentalist pop wunderkind Owen Pallett is Final Fantasy, a pop project laden with the delicate refinements of classical chamber music. However, unlike traditional chamber pop, which typically referred to guitar-based pop augmented with strings or harpsichord, Pallett has essentially eschewed the rhythm section entirely, allowing his gorgeous violin to carry the element here.

The Toronto-based, Milton(Ontario)-raised violinist ran his first bow along the strings of that instrument at age 3, evolving somewhat into a prodigy by his teens - scoring the music to a video game at age 12, writing an opera in high school and eventually studying composition at the University of Toronto. After such a childhood, ensconced as he was in classical music (he cites Bartok and Shostakovich as early influences), Pallett jettisoned the high-brow for the low. He joined the Hidden Cameras and formed Les Mouches before doing his first solo gig in May 2004 at Sneaky Dee's in Toronto, barely a week after borrowing his trademark looping pedal. Normally alone on stage (though sometimes gigging with a full back-up band), Pallett layers his sound by creating recorded loops of sound through various instruments which he can thus accompany with his lilting piano or violin and fragile vocals.

With the sophomore He Poos Clouds, follow-up to 2005's Has a Good Home, Pallett snagged the 2006 critic-driven Polaris Prize in its frosh year. The $20,000 prize money is already earmarked to pay off a student loan for his partner, with the remainder to be donated to the Blocks Recording Club, an artist-owned cooperative he co-founded. And, ever the man of humility, Pallett told the Toronto Star in his typical self-effacing way, "My first thought was, 'Did (the judges) even listen to the record?' Because its kind of crap."

And, well, kind of "crap" it is - the disc's titular scatological reference that is. Though actually a reference to an artist and the creative process, He Poos Clouds itself is a mix of songs imbued with rather abstruse hints at Dungeons and Dragons characters, all sweetly frosted with prancing piano and sublime violin motifs. There are plenty of characters here, though all are clouded in this sort of mystical obscurity, like the title track where Pallett has "gotta rescue Michael from the White Witch". Other tracks are more obviously poignant, such as on 'Arctic Circle', about the emotionally bottled-up who "drives a white car to a seminar on Modern Romance, possible ideas for a date include...a shooting range" and then "you tell lies, tell dirty lies, until you're lying in his bed", to the icy refrain of "s/he's got a heart that will never melt". Equally brilliant is 'This Lamb Sells Condos', about the current architectural desecration of downtown Toronto, and a reference to realtor Brad Lamb ("And Richmond Street is illing, so the graduates are willing, to buy into the pillage, now there is no hope for the village"). Alas, in Toronto, the high-rise developers often poo "up to" the clouds!

Lush, captivating, self-assured - this is a delightfully offbeat disc.



     Blocks Recording Club

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