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The Noise Revival Orchestra changes well

It should be obvious at this point that I’m a sucker for a pop song by a acoustic-instrument folk collective. But The Noise Revival Orchestra‘s latest tunes, which fall squarely into the aforementioned category, were a bit baffling to me. The last TNRO release I reviewed was To The Seven Churches In The Province Of Asia, which was an intriguing post-rock effort. There have been intervening releases, which other writers for Independent Clauses covered; somewhere in there I missed a dramatic stylistic shift. Their press says that it happened for this album specifically, and that would be an abrupt shift indeed if that were the case.

This is sort of a bummer; I miss TNRO’s old sound. I thought it was vibrant and thoughtful. However, I begrudge them not their new direction; nothing is constant in music but change. Songs of Forgiveness is a strong 20-minute, 5-song EP that shows a confident sound and interesting melodic ideas.

But they can’t fully escape their post-rock bent; having subsisted previously on primarily instrumental melodies in the post-rock realm, their retained sense of melody is a welcome aspect of their new sound. The title track has sweeping cinematic “oh-ay-oh-ay-ohs,” and closer “Sapphire” has a long instrumental intro featuring violin. The title track also features a uniquely syncopated rhythm throughout, giving the song an unusual quality among most straight-four-count folk tunes. “Crushing On You” has a similar highly refined sense of rhythm.

And, get this: there’s a massive key change and distorted bass guitar in the title track. This is pretty much still a post-rock band at heart, just writing pop songs that happen to sound like a folk collective because of their choice of instrumentation.

“Dance the Night Away” and “When I Was 8” have the ornamentation and rhythm, but they are dominated more by the vocals than the instrumental performance. These tracks are less effective; the male vocals are good, but they’re not the most compelling part of this band. The sound works better when the instruments lead the voices through the song, and not vice versa.

Overall, this is an incredibly unique and interesting EP. Critics are fickle, always asking bands to change or not change, depending on what we like or dislike about them. (Sorry.) The Noise Revival Orchestra has pulled off the rare feat of moving forward in their sound while still retaining things that made them great. If you’re interested in progressive, well-arranged pop songs, you should definitely be looking over here.