Proggy Deerhoof side project serves up bite-sized pieces of melody

It’s pretty unavoidable to mention the connections between the Curtains and Deerhoof. The fact that they sound a lot like Deerhoof on the surface is one thing, but a cursory glance at the liner notes reveals that in fact, two-thirds of the band is from the San Francisco-based experimental pop darlings. Deerhoof’s Chris Cohen and Greg Saunier play guitar and keyboard in the Curtains, joined by poet and drummer Andrew Maxwell to fill out the trio’s lineup.

Musically, the band takes the elements from Deerhoof that have understandably, if not accurately, been labeled “Prog” and by necessity puts them in the spotlight. Cohen and Saunier’s disturbing knack for playing intricate spider webs of melody on their guitar and keyboards in unison makes horrifying Yes flashbacks painfully unavoidable. However, like their efforts in Deerhoof, they manage to color the sound and melody in such a way as to get away with this sort of thing unscathed.

Once you get past the maddeningly familiar timbre that Cohen and Saunier’s distinctive instrumental styles inevitably produce, the Curtains reveals a narrative style that Deerhoof doesn’t really explore. The tracks—of which, it should be noted, there are 23 in the album’s 35-minute duration—are like little previews of interesting movies, offering snatches of exposition that reveal a dreamscape of detail in economically parceled verbiage. The first song, “April Gallons” leaves the listener with the couplet, “Old men sleep in libraries in this town/While others leave their harbors without a sound.” Maxwell’s lyrical talent proves the most significant distinction for The Curtains from its mother band and makes the Curtains a worthwhile side project.