Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Calm Blue Sea album review

The Calm Blue Sea’s debut, self titled LP (recorded at Cacophony Recorders with local wunderkind producer and engineer Erik Wofford this summer) begins gently with a delicately strummed set of guitar strings and a warm wash of delay. The music then builds and swells before dropping out again and being replaced by a tranquil piano melody. All of this takes place during the first 90 of the album’s 2787 seconds. Expect more of this. The Calm Blue Sea is an album brimming with tenuous lows and exalting highs, rife with both tranquility and chaos. Each track slides gracefully into the next (this is a gapless album) to create an overarching composition that quickly becomes greater than the sum of its individual parts. Having seen the band live many times, I can tell you that this seamlessness carries over to the live show, often leaving the audience unsure of where one song ends; the next begins, or even when to applaud.

If I were to map out opening track "We Happy Few" in terms of song dynamics, the map would resemble a sequence of three mountains, each increasing in size, with low, peaceful valleys between. The song slowly builds into peak one, then the music quickly drops for a languorous moment before climbing to an epic crescendo, only to drop again, hinting at an end that is still minutes away, and finally climb to its highest peak yet. "We Happy Few" slides effortlessly into what I would call the albums single, if a single can be seven and a half minutes long. "Literal" is the only track to feature vocals and rises and falls beautifully from end to end. The last three minutes of "Literal" are a constant build to a dizzying high of crashing drums, crushing bass, squealing guitars and keyboards that satiate the song’s soundscape.

The Calm Blue Sea - Literal (mp3)

My favorite moment on The Calm Blue Sea is the decrescendo towards the three quarter mark of "The Rivers That Run Beneath This City", wherein each band member slowly drops out of the mix, stripping the song first of guitar, then bass, then piano, and finally of drums for a brief moment of dead silence before the song crashes back into life. In a genre full of lots of slow builds and sudden drops, it’s nice to see a band focus on the comedown too.

The Calm Blue Sea is an album that I would describe as methodically proportioned and barely constrained servings of melody and chaos. At times the band is downright mathematical in their precision, interlacing and intertwining intricate piano and guitar lines while the rhythm section pounds away on the low end, then with a sudden crash of stick to snare, all hell breaks loose, but always perfectly on command. The band clearly draws a large amount of influence from this era’s great Post Rock bands such as Mogwai, Mono, Explosions in the Sky, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. That’s not all I hear though. I hear Pink Floyd. I hear Zeppelin. I hear Siamese Dream. I hear the influence of an entire era of music that chose big loud tube amps in combination with delay and distortion pedals over a Wah-wah pedal and a solid state amp. I really love this album and I expect great things from these 5 musicians in the future.

The Calm Blue Sea is being self released by the band and is currently available for purchase digitally from the following locations as well as at their shows and local record shops around Austin.

Buy The Calm Blue Sea at emusic

Buy The Calm Blue Sea at Amazon


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