Saturday, July 28, 2012

Renaissance Sound - Renaissance Sound (Review)

It's the greatest feeling when something awesome just comes out of nowhere. As much as I like the internet, nothing is hidden from view anymore. What was once obscure or rare is now effortlessly obtainable. Another unfortunate side effect is that, due to the ease of going from one extreme to another in an instant, a person can become perpetually unimpressed. I'm man enough to admit that I hear so much terrible and amazing music on a daily basis, that I've become hard to please, cynical even. I often look for associations with other bands or certain producers that I've come to trust before I even listen to a single song. If I find music I love, I'd probably already had a decent idea what it was going to sound like before I'd even listened to it. It's a method that continues to provide me with great music, but a lot of the surprise and satisfaction is compromised.

A few months ago, a friend of mine sent me this EP over Facebook. I didn't find a whole lot about the band's background. I was able to determine that the bass player, Steve Marek, and the Vibraphonist, Jacob Boulay, are both ex-members of the now defunct Math-rock/Emo-inspired band Loose Lips Sink Ships and that they're from DeKalb, IL, but that's about as far as I got. Basically, my point is that great, obscure music is still being made. That's not to say that this release falls under the "it's pretty cool for something I'd never heard of" category. Honestly, this is the best new release I've heard in a while. Even better, it's probably some of the best free (!) music I've heard in years.

Renaissance Sound is drums, bass, vibraphone and violin. The musical aesthetic of this EP can be somewhat difficult to describe (for me anyway) and is probably just best experienced. It's tempting for me to draw Tortoise comparisons, but Renaissance Sound really have developed their own niche in (mostly) instrumental music. I remember reading an interview with the Dirty Three where one of members claimed that the band's method to creating music involved pulling themselves away rather than complementing each other (I'm paraphrasing from memory), and I think something along the same lines can be said about Renaissance Sound. Each instrument is playing something interesting enough to listen to independently, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (EX: Voltron). If one element is removed, it doesn't function properly

Opening track "Don't Eat My Dwarves" introduces itself with a glorious bass riff that just kills, quite simply. It's not as insanely technical as, say, Squarepusher, but it feels good. Bassist Steve Marek deserves some recognition for his contribution to this EP. His riffs have both style and grace: He can steal the show at times, but his key strength is the ability to hold back and let others play off of his foundation. The same exact compliment can be given to Matt Judson, the group's percussionist. Nothing ever feels forced or robotic from either musician.

The most beautiful thing about this first track is the sheer amount of enthusiasm that emanates from it. It sounds like everybody is genuinely excited, and it's infectious. The track builds and decrescendos with complete control. It's pure magic. After a few unexpected twists and turns, the song explodes into a distorted finale that left me with a pretty stupid grin on my face the first time I heard it.

The second track, aptly titled "Derek's Journey", starts out with an eastern sounding string intro that reminds me of Macha. It's not something I would have expected after "Don't Eat My Dwarves", but it doesn't sound out of place in context either. This is also the only song out of the four with vocals. Once again, it's unexpected, but the vocals are more of a compliment to the music than anything.

The final two tracks are more reminiscent of "Don't Eat My Dwarves" than "Derek's Journey". "Streets Without Lights" is a nice showcase of the abilities of violinist Derek Gray. The song starts off slow then steadily builds, eventually leading to a sparse, yet beautiful climax. The final track is "Swirlswind", which is more vibraphone-heavy than the previous tracks. It's a fitting enough way to end, but I just wish there was more.

That's pretty much my only major complaint with this EP: I wish it was longer. As far as I can tell, these are the only four songs that this band has put out. Thankfully, they haven't gotten old to me at all. I've had this thing on heavy rotation since I first heard it, and if anything, it's just gotten better. I just hope there's more on the way.

Verdict: 92%

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