White Hinterland is essentailly the work of one woman - Massachusetts based Casey Dienel. After a well recieved first album - Wind-Up Canary - Dienel has filled out the line-up of her band and returned with second album Phylactery Factory on the Dead Oceans label.
Dienel is from a singer-songwriter mould that has seen something of a resergence recently. We've seen this eclectic, quirky delivery from the likes of Taken By Trees, Feist, Emily Haines even Joanna Newsom, but it's hardly a new development. You could easily trace it back though the likes of Bjork or Stina Nordenstam and on to Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell and beyond.
As is often the case with this style, Dienel's vocals do a seductive job of delivering their lines. There's a lot whispy talk of favourite trees, falling petals and old stone church's - but by her own admission the songs are rarely biographical and that distance seems to add a sense of emptiness to things that makes it a little hard to engage with.
Calliope works well, dropping the quirkiness and instead boiling down the best elements of Dienel's style to a more pure and simple sound - making the most of her voice to create an arresting track. The more jazz-orienteted sounds of brush drums, piano and double bass add some variation accross the album's incresingly familiar style and Napoleon At Waterloo offers a further attempt at shaking things up a bit, but it's too little too late.
It's not that the record doesn't get going, just more like it barely gets out of second gear and without the breathtaking originality of Joanna Newsom or the hook-laden catchiness of Feist, White Hinterland's efforts may unfortunatly blend away into the background.