Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., May 24, 2013
Mother FalconYou Knew (Creme Fraiche)
Since 2010's Still Life EP, Austin's sprawling orchestral outfit Mother Falcon has balanced dynamic arrangements and subtle turns with a romantic if restless pull. Sophomore LP You Knew follows where 2011 debut Alhambra left off, yet despite the band's size and virtuosity – 20 members plying horns, piano, and glockenspiel while awash in a bevy of violins and cellos – MF understands that less is more. Soaring swells broil throughout the set, slowly developed opener "Pink Stallion" exploding from a plucked violin through raucous choral yelps, crescendoed strings, and an unexpected drop into a measure of jazz rhythms. Likewise, "Marigold," the album's strongest track, hearkens the dramatically structured play of Broken Social Scene, Architecture in Helsinki, and Stars, the male/female exchange turning on tension accentuated in the searing strings. Yet restraint conjures the eloquent beauty of the album in the delicate "Porcelain," operatic trill of "Sleep," and understated sway of "My Majesty of Madness." An expertly deployed hold-and-release drives the rising and falling "Dirty Summer," as well as the chugging bursts of "When It Was Good." From the slow drip of "Blue and Gold" to the nearly instrumental drift of "Marfa," You Knew plays as a master course in compelling arrangements.