Friday, February 25, 2011

Quiet Steps - 2010 Think Aloud

Band : Quiet Steps
Album : Think Aloud
Release Year : 2010
Genre : Screamo / Post-Rock / Mathrock

Tracklist :
1. Sales Rising
2. Enemy Control
3. Mirage
4. Dead Sea
5. Chateau
6. Assimilate
7. Generation to Generation
8. Exclusion
9. Measure Reaction
10. Echelon
11. Surrounded
12. One Breath
13. Vision Lost

Most obviously, Quiet Steps' brand of screamo follows in the footsteps of indie guitar rock-influenced groups like Sinaloa by utilising shouted vocals over the top of moderately catchy and recognisable riffs. But while the aesthetic is at least similar, the songs of Think Aloud are far more effective at conveying urgency and desperation; partly due to the more jagged rhythms, partly due to the ability of the bass and drums to drive the parts forward, but mostly due to the tense interplay between the instruments and the vocals. The band's influences are apparent throughout the record, but never once does it feel as if they're just playing to a template. Hot Cross-styled pull-off riffs, for example, are used to great effect throughout the record, but rather than being smooth and fluid they are played with a tight, straight feel that serves to increase the urgency of the music. The band approach their techniques with a 'whatever works' approach: the guitar utilising chunky chords, slides, pull-offs, droning notes, busy changes, palm-muting, and tight rhythms; the bass using chords, arpeggios, driving notes, and complex patterns; and the drums playing everything from start-stop patterns to dance beats; often within the space of the same song.

The songs work by building up multiple moments of catharsis within short spaces, all of which dart in and out through each song in a way in which each parts builds on the previous the one. Rather than building riffs and patterns up dynamically and growing the listener's expectations through restraint like in post-rock, the songs use riffs and sections as building blocks to create larger pieces. The approach doesn't always have the immediate gratification of dynamic explosions, but it's certainly more satisfying on repeated listens. The album's most cathartic moments are generally its most moving, like the heavy riff that closes out "Assimilate"; the plodding, melodic build-up to the brutal start-stop section of "Measure Reaction"; or the final busy chord progression of "Mirage".
The most satisfying song of the record is, however, "Dead Sea", a piece that comes in just short of 7 minutes but feels less than half that length. It's one of those rare tracks where everything comes together perfectly: where no melodic, rhythmic, or dynamic choice is out of place; where the lyrics and group vocals slot into each section effortlessly; where the instruments trade off roles, weaving in and out frome each other; and where the final riff (the heaviest and best on the album) is both subtly emotive and ballsy as all hell.

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