Three years ago, Make a Rising’s first album, Rip Through the Hawk Black Night, set a high bar for over-stuffed, elaborately arranged baroque pop, orchestrated through a chamber orchestra’s worth of woodwinds, strings, horns, percussion and piano. The main problem with the debut was the singing, watery, sometimes offkey and just not on a par with the rest of the album. With this, the second record from the Philly-based collective, that issue has been laid to rest—and all the other elements have been drawn together into sharper focus. Infinite Ellipse and Head with Open Fontane is a cleaner, clearer iteration of a fairly complicated aesthetic, tying its mad percussive intervals and swoons of late romantic violin to stronger more cohesive songs. Choral harmonies lead into pulsing, prog-driven rhythms in album opener, “Sneffels Yokul”, a slightly more urbanized take on Akron/Family’s communal vibe. Yet later in the cut, frantic, up-and-down-the-scales motion and pounding, rapid-fire rhythms places this song more in a post-jazz-post-classical mode. The piano on this CD is consistently quite lovely, not in any way rock-oriented, but rather hinting at a love of romantic composers like Grieg and Schumann, as well as later classicists Debussey and Satie. You hear it best on the two “Woodsong” pieces, in both cases accompanied by a somber mass of sustained notes—accordion, clarinet, melodica and violin. More upbeat, buoyant cuts like “Transmutation” rattle along joyously, and loosely knit textures of voice, xylophone, violin and clarinet join in a carnival waltz. Melodies take unexpected half-turn steps, while rhythms jut and stutter in off-kilter ways. Nothing proceeds in a straight line, but all somehow makes sense. Infinite Ellipse is an Escher drawing of an album, surfaces impacted with impossible angles, yet somehow wholly logical and in tune with itself.
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