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Clearly Distorted Well

March 9, 2009

The Sess Agendumb

“Distortion” is the name of the game that is played by San Diego rockers The Sess with their album Agendumb.

It would seem that The Sess believe not only in turning the volume up to eleven, but also the gain. Everything, right down to the vocals, has a distinct crunch that immediately makes the band’s recorded sound grab your attention. The catchy riffs and lyrics only add to the feeling.

Initially, I was concerned. Agendumb opens with a sort of ambient intro that has a slight drum beat to it accompanied by odd sounds and recordings of various political propaganda such as Hitler speeches and the like. The intro, “Abraxas,” is very deceptive, making the album appear like it’s going to be one of those weird psychedelic opuses that you have to be on mushrooms to really understand. Then “Sheep City” comes in with some good, solid rock that’s very easy to get into.

And then the use of distortion on the vocals concerned me. When “Sheep City” ended and “Silly For Sirius” begins, the distorted vocals continued and I was very afraid the songs would all start to sound the same. Fortunately, this proved not to be the case, because The Sess manage to give most of the songs very distinct sounds and the distorted vocals quickly start to feel like an organic part of the music.

The album itself is very brief at only about thirty-two minutes. The first half goes by especially fast, but it’s the second half of the album where the band really shines. “Mary” reels you in quickly and their cover of The Remains’ “Don’t Look Back” is so full of soul that you can’t help but have a ton of fun listening to it.

The instrumental work really shines on “Wisdom Tooth Gumbs,” and the vocals are pulled back a little, really letting all the instruments shine. The Sess favor two guitars, bass, drums and some very tastefully done synthesizer. A lot of times when a band puts keyboards into the mix, the rest of the music is overpowered, but The Sess succeed here with the keyboards playing a strong supporting role and occasionally coming out to propel things along themselves. The keyboard work on the album closer, “Tunnel Love,” is especially well done.

I could have done without the intro track and the hidden outro track, since they don’t really seem to mesh with the band’s overall sound. But nitpicking aside, Agendumb is an excellent release and I look forward to seeing more from The Sess.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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