Oct 25th 2005
by Chris Dahlen
As you stumble through repeated listens to this disc and your brain makes sense of the chaotic song fragments, you might find a thread in the album by hearing it as a story-- a children's adventure, say, the kind that has maximum momentum with minimum exposition. The guitar and violin that echo Robert Fripp and David Cross sparring in mid-'70s King Crimson also sounds like you're fending off 10 pirates at a crowded bar and slicing out their tongues without knocking over a single beer. The hollow rattle of percussion stands for chains rattling hopelessly at the bottom of a prison-- and the arbitrarily long drones sound like making an escape out a 10th-story window and praying for an awning below.
Or maybe that's all wrong. For their debut LP, Make a Rising, a cult fave around Philadelphia that deserve wider attention, may not have planned out a narrative so much as a series of incidents and accidents. The arrangements and production hew close to '70s art rock and Henry Cow, but the transitions are all post-Zorn-- and the listeners who are used to translating musical cues and moods into a cogent whole will find themselves ready to deal with this kind of music after, say, Cerberus Shoal's last few records, or even Fiery Furnaces' Blueberry Boat. We're trained to go with the flow-- wherever it leads.
Make a Rising recorded it at their work space, giving it a strange but old atmosphere like a decommissioned black box theater: The upright piano sounds dusty, and the musicians rattle around in the wings and jump in whenever it's their turn. The first eight cuts run together in what may or may not be a suite, which is largely instrumental, outside of the male and female vocals that whiz in and out like tissue-paper ghosts on a string. Those songs are followed by the "Expired Planet", a far more conventional and summery pop song (aside from the male singer, who sounds like he's trying to stand up in a canoe), and the album wraps up with the surprisingly sweet ukulele and accordion of "Partial Thoughts".
Without sounding sloppy, the performance is ramshackle, with plenty of room sound to fade into and acoustic blind spots to jump out of, making your first listen unpredictable: breaks and free passages run longer than you expect, and the melodic, driving sections that follow leave you wary of what's coming next. Needless to say, that's what makes it so engaging. Some modern ears may be spoiled by bands like-- to take yet another not-really-similar example-- Animal Collective, who always wind up safely back at the campfire: Rip Through the Hawk Black Night ends sweetly but it doesn't clear things up. But that has its own rewards.
released June 6, 2005
Features contributions from Nate Hardy, Dan Scofield, Doug Jerelmack, Sharif Abdulmalik, Kelly Kietzman, & Ben Leavitt.
Recorded and mixed by Bill Moriarty at the Old New Planet House.
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side.
Artwork by Make A Rising and the New Planet Collective. Band photograph by Ryan Collerd.
All songs © 2004 Make A Rising.
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