The Guardian, Thursday 9 February 2012
Last month, this outrageously virtuosic and experimental bluegrass-pop-jazz band from New York turned up at a small London venue and gave what will surely be one of the most memorable concerts of the year. Now the five-piece Punch Brothers are back with their third album, which doesn’t match the furious energy of their live performances, largely because they shy away from straightforward folk songs such as the stomping Rye Whiskey. But it does show why they are so special. There are fine, unexpectedly jaunty melodies here, but they come wrapped in complex arrangements, as fiddle, banjo and guitar weave around the remarkable mandolin work and sometimes more fragile vocals of Chris Thile. The opening Movement and Location sets the mood, with a blitz of acoustic playing matched against drifting vocals. Elsewhere on Patchwork Girlfriend, the melody dissolves into controlled discord before returning, while the Swedish song Flippen is an exercise in rapid-fire mandolin and fiddle work. There’s even an edgy treatment of Radiohead’s Kid A. This is a remarkable band.