Formed in 1989 in Portsmouth, England by siblings Alison and Jim Shaw and named after the many mechanical cranes around the city's docks, Cranes are best known for the childlike, high-pitched vocals of lead singer Alison.
The Helium Tones of a Small Child
Cranes have been tagged with more than their share of inaccurate labels over the years, such as "Gothic", "Ethereal" and even "Industrial", but just as often, they are more accurately described as a band with a furiously creative drive which allows even their simplest songs to sound beautifully honest and original.
Much has been made of Alison Shaw's vocals, with descriptions ranging from "the helium tones of a small child", "baby-doll-voiced", and "a mewling, childish wisp of a voice". One reviewer described the band: "Imagine a small child singing lullabies at the bottom of the well with a background of grinding guitars".
But as simple as their music seems, the Cranes have always kept things interesting by giving their music an element of edginess and unpredictability. Some of their songs make their point with no more than three notes played repeatedly on a piano, while others rely on screeching, wailing walls of sound provided by guitarists Matt Cope and Mark Francombe, while still others rely on a clever, sometimes surprising combination of the two. All of these elements are complemented perfectly by Shaw's unmistakable vocal style and her brother Jim Shaw's precise and powerful percussion.”