Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Empty Space Orchestra Rock The Amps, Not the Mic

From Bend, Oregon comes Empty Space Orchestra: part spacy post-rock, part shapeshifting, Mars Volta inspired math-rock, with a frequently dramatic, cinematic edge and an unexpected sense of humor. Fun may not be something you equate with the Mars Volta, but it’s definitely part of the blueprint for Empty Space Orchestra. The songs on their new, self-titled, all-instrumental album often have a mocking, satirical bite that’s completely out of character in this genre. How cool is it to finally find a proggy-sounding band that doesn’t take itself seriously?

The ornateness of the arrangements attests to the band’s classical background. Guitarist Shane Thomas and bassist Patrick Pearsall are riffmeisters, often working in tandem. Keyboardist Keith O’Dell brings the drama with stately classical flourishes; multi-instrumentalist Graham Jacobs (reeds and keys) seems to be in charge of atmospherics. Drummer Lindsey Elias propels the behemoth with a power and precision worthy of Bill Bruford. The most comedic song here is Get Some, a stomping faux-Vegas stripper theme that opens with a cheesy faux-brass keyboard patch and then brings in creepy yet funky funeral organ. Eventually, the guitar takes over, with a metal edge, sax alternating between robotic and robust. The rest of it is a characteristic mix of wit and wrath: a silly synth solo followed by a tersely dramatic, emphatic guitar solo that eventually smolders and bursts into flame as the whole band heats up.

The single best song here might be Tiger Puss, a slowly stomping, hypnotic tableau that hints at dub, with some truly bizarre, slurpy noises in the background. Up with ringing reverb guitar, it goes warpspeed a la the Bad Brains for a bit and then hits a pounding metal interlude. From there it slowly grinds to a halt, switching from sarcasm to genuine plaintiveness as it winds out. El Viento builds slowly to a psychedelic southwestern gothic melody and without warning morphs into a bright, wide-eyed adventure theme (in 10/4 time for those of you who like to count), that finally starts coming apart at the seams as the guitar hisses and sputters. And Intergalactic Battle Cruiser offers an update on the Ventures for the 21st century, with twin riffage from bass and guitar and a vividly intense, tremolo-picked guitar solo while the drums manage to simultaneously blend pure insanity and perfect precision.

There are a couple of short ones here that are also a lot of fun. Tennessee Red offes less than two minutes of searing, chromatic metal, with a potently simple slide guitar solo; The Hangar is an Allen Lanier-style piano interlude that grows epic for a second before gracefully returning home. The rest of the album mixes the comical with the cerebral. Exit Strategy sounds like Rush as done by Queen, with a chorus by Loverboy. The opening track, Brainjar, moves artfully from 80s style adventure movie calisthenics to an ominous Peter Hook bass figure and then back again; the closing track does the same but with a Beatlesque interlude. There’s a lot going on here and it’s a lot of fun.

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May 13, 2011 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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