Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Normal Love - s/t (2007, High Two)

This is a review I wrote some time back about Normal Love's first album, released on High Two.

It’s all over the place…

Is there a connection between the tunes that the instruments are playing here? For the untrained or the unaccustomed ear, the answer would be no; for my ear or rather brain, the answer is yes. Which points out to a crucial issue here; if you’re unused to this sort of music (at times referred to as Math-rock, Avant-rock etc) and dislike the angular and disjointed sound then you should either avoid this if you find this to be unbearable noise or if you’re interested in getting into this, then look for an easier “way in”.

However,  if you do, then you'll find much pleasure in this album!

As my title suggests, the music seems to be all over the place, “spilling” in all directions, instruments playing unrelated and even contradicting parts, at times disharmonious. But here also lies the greatness. How sophisticated and complex this is; how well are they playing this; how well do they compose those composite compositions. Not only are these intricate (Severe Confection) but also intense (The Signal’s Coming From Pittsburgh Part 1). Angular and disjointed, the music is in most cases not flowing easily but one has to be receptive to it in order to absorb and digest the themes in each track. Therefore dismissing it after one or only a few listens as unbearable shows that you’re either unreceptive to this sort of music, or that you’ve not listened (closely) enough.

The playing the musicians show is precise, sharp, bony and pointed. The bass lines are done very well, add a lot to the succinct atmosphere of the music; the violin is a great addition to this sort of style and lineup. It adds another layer of portrayed emotions that is usually not easily conveyed in this approach. At the same time it reinforces the abrasive and cold characteristics of this music, while also adding a new ingredient transforming somewhat the sound into a more frisky and eerie than usual.

Not all in here is done at the same pace and in the same fashion and technique. There progressive elements are not only shown in the style that they play but also in the ability to shift within each track from the main theme to explore other musical ideas, other patterns and sounds. Therefore it is not a monotonous ride that becomes dull and shallow after a while, making you lose focus and attention. On the contrary, they know well how to keep the listeners awareness and interest; moreover they also manage to keep a good deal of variety between the tracks themselves so it is not all same-same through out the album.

This album is a fine piece of explorative and experimental rock that does not lack creativeness and a spark of originality.
Point of reference would be Upsilon Acrux, Cheval De Frise, Zs, Ruins et al. This is recommended for those into this type of music and also to those open to try a different approach to music. If this is how their first album sounds like, I can’t wait for the follow-up release.

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