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"Corban Eldra-The Midwest"

corbaneldraBand Name: Corban Eldra
Album Name: The Midwest
Best Element: Reminds me how good these guys are live.
Genre: Straight-up indie-rock.
Website: N/a
Label Name: N/a

Corban Eldra needs to come to Tulsa more often- because their live shows are nothing short of amazing. The chemistry between the two guitarists, rhythm guitar/vocalist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist is amazing, and their explosive indie rock songs leap off the stage as barn-burning epics. Songs such as “A Constant Explosion” and “Kansas” are nothing short of rapturous when played live, as the many pieces of their puzzle fall together in a yearning, passionate wall of sound. The guys in Corban Eldra are my favorite indie-rock songwriters right now- if somebody were to ask me what good indie-rock sounds like, I’d describe CE’s sound.

When I heard that their album was almost finished, I was thrilled to finally hear how their huge live sound translates to a recorded setting. But I had been warned by the band that it was hard for them to capture that live spark on tape, so I was a little guarded in my expectations.

Even with those lowered expectations, The Midwest was a little bit of a let-down. Their intense sound seemed to hit with a thud instead of bang, their chemistry was obscured by huge guitar presence, and their precise songwriting lost its edge. This watering down of their sound is mostly due to the fact that the mix is extremely guitar-heavy. Yes, there are three guitars in Corban Eldra, but that’s no reason to drown out the drums, bass, and keys in nearly every track. In live performances, the drums are loud and proud, the keys rip through the rest of the mix, and the bass provides a strong foundation- on most of The Midwest, all you can hear is guitars and vocals. The drums are an especially maddening loss- these songs seem to amble in no direction without the pop that the very talented drumming provides.

With most of the full-band chemistry relegated to naught, The Midwest serves as a testament to how strong their three-guitar songwriting is. Even though “A Constant Explosion” is robbed of some of its live candor, the album version of it is pretty intense- to someone who’s never heard them live, it would still be quite amazing to hear. The mournful guitar elegy that is “Part One” doesn’t have much full-band presence in it anyway, so its glory is untainted- and it is one of the most moving songs on the album, as a forlorn guitar dips and soars through a sparse, yet epic landscape. It’s great, and it gives credence to the fact that this album is ambitiously named The Midwest . I actually do think of the Midwest when I hear “Part One”.

“Dobbs” is another highlight track- I don’t think I’ve ever heard it live, so I have no complaints about its transference from live to tape. The talented vocals and quick drumming shine through on this one before they give way to the monster slab of layered rock that I have come to expect from all great CE tracks. This one features a particularly awesome second guitar melody and some inspired cymbal-bashing.

All in all, The Midwest is one of the better indie-rock records you could want to buy, in terms of straight-up talent. It will also be useful for eBay fodder when they get famous. But the band can do so much better- I hope that their next recordings better showcase their full talents as a band. Then again, The Midwest will keep people coming to shows forever, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all- reminds me how good a live band Corban Eldra actually is.

-Stephen Carradini