Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tabula Rasa - The Role of Smith

I'm not really sure how I came across Tabula Rasa's 'The Role of Smith'. I know I purchased it at a Warped Tour in Pittsburgh at which I was because I was interested in seeing Glassjaw, Rise Against, and like minded groups live. I was in the various booths section and while looking for something to purchase I believe somebody from AF Records came up to me and talked me into buying this record. That is the vague remembrance I have, anyways this was kind of different from the stuff I was listening to at the time. I was versed in Fugazi which represents the post-hardcore this group is based in, but Tabula Rasa has a distinctive math rock core. This is most likely because of their birthplace which also happens to be Pittsburgh. Don Caballero may be that city’s most important export and the influence of them is felt on this record immensely. What is interesting is that members of Tabula Rasa would in the future meet up with Mike Banfield of Don Cab fame. Tabula Rasa seems distinctive of recent groups like Kidcrash and Off Minor in terms of instrumental prowess, but the vocals and song structures do evoke a more poppy background. 'More Words Than Not' is a clear example of how catchy the group can be with its distinctive switches between calm, melodic portions to stretched out mini-crescendos. I guess simply put Tabula Rasa kind of sounds like the meeting point between At the Drive-in and Three Penny Opera.

Tabula Rasa's 'The Role of Smith'
Dynamically 'The Role of Smith is excellent. This group of musicians were perfect at letting the songs boil down and up at the correct time and also with their version of repetition. Songs don't really follow verses and choruses rather verses and choruses follow the songs seemingly popping up in between various guitar intricacies and drum fills. This works beautifully making tracks like 'How Old Are You..?' and the instrumental 'The Eating Contest' seem fluid yet extensively composed. The fluid nature of the music drifts into the playing of each member of the band and everything from the rhythm section to the vocals all seems to have a placement in the construction of the songs. The main problem of the record seems to be because of its rather spotty production. The guitars seem a little weak, the bass a little out of place, and the drums not pristine enough. I often over look this fact by simply rationalizing that it was on a record label run by Anti-Flag so obviously they weren't that concerned with releasing a completely amazing package. 'The Role of Smith' is a fabulous example of post-hardcore and should definitely be investigated by anyone interested in the genre.

Ghostlimb's 'Bearing and Distance'
I've also included Ghostlimb's latest record 'Bearing and Distance' on this post. I have the vinyl release of this record, but the CD version apparently possesses more tracks so I figured I'd upload that one. This record is one of the best hardcore records I've heard in '08 yet. It features members of Graf Orlock who I'm not really a fan of but to think that group has helped this one come to be justifies its worth ten fold. There are numerous nautical references all over the record and stylistically it sounds wrapped in despair similar to its themes. Essentially a trio playing some of the most aggressive and interesting hardcore these days and live they are equally as entertaining. Certainly a group anyone interested in aggressive music should check out.

Tabula Rasa - 'The Role of Smith' (2003)
Ghostlimb - 'Bearing & Distance' (2008)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Capillary Action - So Embarrassing

Capillary Action's "So Embarrassing" should be regarded as incredible for one main reason; the horn sections. Examples of the brilliance of the horn sections can be found in "Elevator Fuck" and "Placebo or Panacea" where the horns simply don't just provide another blast of noise, but literally they act as the underlying developer of Jon Pfeffer's bizarrely catchy melodic changes. Another positive is how beautifully the string and horn sections are produced which can easily be explained due to the addition of Colin Marston in a production capacity. Most of what the band is doing on this record seems to be a meeting point between the break neck changes of Mr. Bungle with the melodic creativity of Time of Orchids. In many ways "So Embarrassing" parallels two of my most recent favorites "Blue Lambency Downward" and "Namesake Caution" in how it bridges the more sophisticated melodic ideas of jazz and classical composition with modern rock and pop. Every member of this group is playing at a peak of effortless rhythmic changes and carefully arranged harmonies. This attention to detail the members provide to each movement helps some of the more jilted sections like the end of "Bloody Nose" play a little smoother than they would otherwise. “So Embarrassing” is yet another example of how great mixing the avant garde and more simple genres works greatly.
capillary action's 'so embarrassing'
Though "So Embarrassing" deserves a large amount of praise the record does fall apart due to a few simple flaws. First, where bands like Time of Orchids and Kayo Dot are going through massive amounts of changes they seem to have a sense of when to let things develop. Capillary Action seems to fall into the Mr. Bungle comparison I drew earlier and be more about showing off their ability to shift between vastly different parts in short amounts of time. This is probably more of a personal preference but because of that a lot of the beauty in these songs seems to be lost. "Paperweights" is a notable exception with its drawn out acoustic portions being one of the most beautiful sections on the record. Still, the groups to which Pfeffer's indulgencies seem to relate are far more experienced and have had time to develop their ideas, Pfeffer is only 21 and already he has released an album that possesses a very original sound as well as an impressive amount of musicianship. Given the time to let his music mature I'm sure he will find himself in the company of his peers and inspirations, but for now his music will just have to settle for being very impressive instead of awe inspiring.

Capillary Action - So Embarrassing (2008)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ampere / Funeral Diner - Split

i'm going to be seeing Ampere tomorrow evening. i've been wanting to see Ampere since I heard their first LP way back in 2005. obviously as we can tell from the last post on here, 2005 was a great year for "emo" or whatever. 'All Our Tomorrows End Today' was an excellent combination of early '90s hardcore with Orchid's rigid sophistication. that record is such a perfect capsule of what Ampere is all about. anyways, from my first day hearing them i've been sure they must have been a killer live act.. but every time they came somewhere near Pennsylvania something came up. hopefully no foul play is involved tomorrow. in honor of seeing Ampere or whatever I'm putting up their split with Funeral Diner. The track by Funeral Diner is released somewhere else, i believe a tour EP.. but both Ampere tracks are just on this record. 'Sleepwalkers' is definitely the highlight on Ampere's side throwing together all sorts of odd guitar lyrics and even a part that sounds like it is about to break into something that isn't fast as shit which is certainly uncharacteristic for the band. the Funeral Diner features an excellent track that feels very similar to the new Funeral Diner member laced ...Who Calls So Loud. all in all this split 9" was a great purchase and the etchings that are on the actual vinyl are beautiful. wish i had pictures.

ampere / funeral diner - split
asleep or awake, eyes open or closed.
we'll see through boarded windows
and cracked concrete.
you & me - all of us - we will be discord, volatile & explosive.
we will write our histories.

we'll not let on to faking and plant a thousand lies.

they won't know;
no one will know our truth.
we see the logic in revision
& practice what we hate
so revel in your contradiction, a wrench in some machine.

- Sleepwalkers; Ampere

Ampere / Funeral Diner - Split 9"