From the first notes of the instrumental opener “Small,” Absinthe Blind assert that they are not your father’s indie band. Despite the limited visibility afforded by their label, the band creates confident, grandiose music that seems destined for a larger audience. Like Radiohead, to whom they are often compared, Absinthe Blind layer sounds to create complex textures and moods. Because of the care and craft Absinthe Blind afford them, the tracks that comprise Music for Security often seem less like “songs” than “pieces” or “sketches,” terms usually reserved for visual artists.
In many instances, the results are profoundly impressive. The lush “Small” begins with frantic drumming featured prominently in the mix and light strains of guitar and piano in the background. About one-and-a-half minutes into the track, just when the listener thinks he or she understands the structure of the song and where it is going, a horn section bursts in. It’s too bad the song clocks in at just around two minutes, because it would have been fascinating to hear where the music might have gone next.
“Breathe the Screen” provides the first vocals heard on the album, and an argument for the Radiohead comparisons. Beginning with soft strains of guitar, the song morphs into a mid-tempo rocker when Adam Fein’s voice enters. The chorus then erupts with Fein’s emotional vocals and bursts of loud guitar, much like the technique used in Radiohead’s first hit “Creep.”
The listener can’t predict where the songs might venture, which makes Music for Security engaging and highly listenable. However, it is not a completely rewarding experience. While some songs, like “Breathe the Screen,” “Don’t Lose the Image,” and “Invisible One,” are nearly perfect pieces of melodic pop, there are a few weak tracks. “Lifelike” incorporates a “Chopsticks”-like piano line, something that Liz Phair also unsuccessfully attempted. Newest member Erin Fein handles lead vocals, which might not be bad if her voice wasn’t so muffled in the mix. The sloppiness of the production and performances on “Lifelike” make it seem like Absinthe Blind were playing around with sound textures in the studio, not trying to create a song.
A similarly sloppy feel pervades the instrumental “No Sound,” which, unlike most other tracks, features no introduction. An acoustic guitar immediately plunges into a repetitive, sloppy tune. When the music abruptly ends, the musicians mumble to each other, making it seem that the song was merely a half-baked experiment launched in the studio.
It’s unfortunate that a few of the lesser tunes weren’t cut from the album, because they detract from the strong ones. With slightly better production choices, Absinthe Blind could have made a great album instead of one that simply shows promise.
// Notes from the Road
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