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Sloth: Make your own sound, nine genres at a time

October 6, 2015


Genre mash-ups are the way of the future, if Steven Hyden’s reading of music’s trajectory is to be believed. (I believe it.) But where Hyden thinks that we’re headed for “a future where all music sounds like everything at once” and nothing is distinctive, Sloth provides a counter-argument. Sloth‘s Out + Out combines alt-country, slackerish ’90s indie, gritty garage-rock and tons more to create a sound all its own. Instead of being a mishmash, the inventive results are a gripping listen.

The sheer number of ideas on Out + Out is head-spinning. In taking sonic elements, songwriting conventions, riff styles, and attitudes from a variety of styles, it seems that lead songwriter Seth Nathan has no end of new elements to include. Opener “Every Circle” starts off with a squalling guitars and ominous cymbal splashes before leaping into a lumbering rock guitar line counterpointed by frantic bass guitar work. A snap change to the verse ushers in a new section entirely: easygoing vocal delivery, lean-back drumming, mellowed-out background vocals. The chorus and the post-chorus instrumental section amp up the rock again. Instead of feeling disjointed, it feels like it fits in the alt-country milieu of rapid starts and stops. It’s the sort of song that sounds improbable in text but just works when you hear it. Trust me on this one.

The wild arrangements don’t let down after that first tune. “Montana” combines spidery lead guitar with alt-country backline and an artsy bridge; “Live For Beauty” has some tropical vibes thrown into the guitar along with a snare shuffle and hectic bass riffing. (Bassist Frank Cicciarello deserves mad props not just here, but everywhere on the album.) “I Wanna Move (to Portland)” marries the cascading guitars of the previous song to the laid-back indie-rock vibes at the beginning, but morphs into an even wilder experience: a brief interlude that’s nearly calypso in tone and rhythm leads into an abstract, dissonant art-rock section that reminds me of Minus the Bear in a really bad mood. Then it segues into a grumbling-yet-funky post-punk thing. It gets more and more complex from there (!). It’s a mind-bending, thought-provoking, brilliant song. Just this tune alone could merit its own review.

There are some moments of sonic breath: “Staring at the Sun” is a walking-speed ballad, while “What You See” follows up “I Wanna Move (To Portland)” with a relatively straightforward mid-tempo rock song (albeit with brittle, damaged guitar solos like something out of Tom Morello’s oeuvre). They show that while Sloth can get experimental with the best of them, they can also knock a traditional structure out of the park. Sloth packs more into the 25 minutes of Out + Out than some bands can get in twice that long. If you’re up for an adventurous, out-of-the-box listen, Sloth’s Out + Out should give you quite a trip.

Edelweiss sports an impressive sound that melds mystery and precision

November 8, 2011

Bloc Party has always fascinated me with their deft balance of cold precision and intense emotion. Bands that follow in their footsteps often fall on one side of the other the divide, never quite capturing the tension that made the band so magic. Still, failing to appropriate BP’s majesty most often results in excellent work in its own right, and that’s the case with EdelweissPre-Columbians EP.

The band has immediate BP trademarks in the precise guitar tone, cold atmospherics and post-punk rhythms. But the band infuses the five tunes here with a air of mystery, a la Minus the Bear. These tunes aren’t as cut and dried as Kele Okereke and co. make: there’s space for interpretation in these tunes, both in the less didactic vocals and the focus on the whole of the tune instead of on dramatic guitar riffs. That’s not to say there aren’t solid vocal melodies and interesting guitarwork: plenty of both abound in the EP. But the focus is on the song as a whole, not one revelatory guitar line.

This makes tunes like “Witches and Vampires” and “Icarus” incredibly evocative tunes, creating a space for the listener to inhabit. They don’t necessarily fill that space, but they do fashion it. “A Sound From Pennsylvania” goes positively post-rock, applying the techniques from their indie-rock to a subdued, twinkly instrumental. It works impeccably.

Pre-Columbians by Edelweiss shows a band with firm control of its sound. That’s remarkable for a band as young as Edelweiss; hopefully they won’t become trapped in that which they already understand. This EP can be a great launching point for an interesting indie-rock career, or it can be a cruel dictator that keeps them in the same lane for the rest of the band’s life. Here’s to hoping the former comes true, and Edelweiss keeps churning out high-quality music for lovers of this particular style of indie-rock. Keep us guessing, Edelweiss; you’ve done great at that so far.

Band with crazy name releases 7 inch vinyl

September 21, 2009

Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)” has got to be one of the all-time strangest band names I have ever encountered. First of all, it’s seven words long. Seven. Secondly, not only does it incorporate punctuation, the name includes different kinds – both exclamation points and parenthesis. It makes me wonder what their fans call them. Maybe just “Empire! Empire!”? (But then do you have to say it with a raised voice?) Or what about “E.E.I.W.A.L.E.”? Continue readingBand with crazy name releases 7 inch vinyl…

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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