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Canyons – Keep Your Dreams review

Since decamping to Sydney from Perth and launching their own label, Hole In The Sky, Australian duo Canyons (aka Leo Thomson and Ryan Grieve) have put out a heady mixture of spacey, psychedelic disco-tinged house. Although their first releases (which included tracks under the pseudonyms Fred Cherry & The Templates) flew under the radar of most, they did not escape the attention of key tastemakers: the Canyons soon released 12”s on DFA and I’m A Cliché and were snapped up by Aussie indie dance giants Modular for an album deal. Their EP for DFA featured two captivating, sleazy house jams in “Fire Eyes” and “Dancing On Silk”, while “Blue Snakes” appeared on the same Moments Of A Crisis compilation on Cosmo Vitelli’s eagle eyed I’m A Cliché that debuted Azari & III’s now ubiquitous “Hungry (For The Power)”.

It became quickly apparent that the Canyons sound was a diverse one. Tracks like “Busride To The Zoo” and a remix of Tame Impala’s “Half Full Glass Of Wine” emerged from a dense haze of bong smoke, all low slung riffage and, in the case of the former, monkey shrieks; then there were quirky, upbeat moments like “More Champagne” and “Apples & Pears”; “Big City Lights” meanwhile showcased a penchant for starry-eyed downtempo excursions, while “Blue Snakes” was a raw, throbbing slice of techno that found its way onto Agoria’s 2011 Fabric mix. Indeed “Blue Snakes” is the only track that makes it onto their debut album, Keep Your Dreams, and by the time we reach it we’ve already heard a breathless opening two track segue (“Circadia” into “Under A Blue Sky”), a largely successful attempt at daytime radio-friendly/TV sports soundtrack material (“My Rescue”) and the brilliant, Mr Fingers-inspired “See Blind Through”, which features some drunkenly pitched down vocals from Ramona Gonzalez of Nite Jewel. Indeed on the first half of the album, it’s only the somewhat hit-and-miss electro pop of “Sun & Moon” that doesn’t live up to Ryan & Leo’s lofty standards, coming across as a bit too polished.

Two things become apparent as the album drifts towards its conclusion. First, the duo have not shied away from the challenge of working with a range of vocalists, and, second, they have fully indulged a predilection for squealing/smokey (delete where appropriate) saxophone solos. Of the vocal contributions, it’s Gonzalez’s unexpectedly treated effort and “Tonight”, featuring the unmistakable tones of Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker, which shine brightest. Indeed it’s “Tonight”, with its shimmering guitars, sepia tinted vocals and groggy pop sensibility, existing at the lonely crossroads of commercial success and underground reverence, which provides the neatest summation of what the Canyons are all about.

Aaron Coultate