Panic Ensemble, more a collective than a band from Israel, offer up a debut album of intricate compositions. Heavy on strings and rich in vocal harmonies, the group takes complicated pieces of music and strips them of any pomp in favor of grounded emotion. Heavy, big songs like “Underground” stretch out and grow to symphonic heights. “Obsession” and other upbeat numbers bring a playful bounce to the album, keeping it from getting weighted down. And with songs like “Spring from Your Heart”, the band channels the sweet jazz of Astrud Gilberto, giving us a love song that is a poppy as it is airtight in its composition. These elements come together to make an album with surprising variety and breadth. It is easy for a group this good at compositions based in traditional instruments to let their music become precious and impenetrable. Not so with Panic Ensemble. Emotion is given as much, if not more weight than precise musicianship. And in doing so, they’ve made one of the best art-rock-cabaret—that’s what they call it—records you haven’t heard this year.
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