City of Sound - L'Implosion
Release Date: January 25, 2009
Record Label: Unsigned
City of Sound, Minnesota's prog brainchild, is unquestionably talented. Their debut album, L'Implosion, is a fusion of so many different soundscapes and textures that it's nearly impossible to pin down where and what they remind you of (though you can bet that question will tug at you throughout a large portion of the album).
Spearheading L'Implosion is vocalist Daniel Morrison and his unbelievably varied vocal approaches. He's packaged everything from The Stilleto Formal-esque wails to his soothing soft timbre into a container that is still, somehow, extremely attractive. His approach is switched up constantly; bolting from the sonic wailing in the beginning of "Lunar Ticks" to delicate sung vocals by the end of the track isn't something that's easily accomplished, but Morrison proves his aptitude time and time again. Even when his voice hits heavier, letting loose the occasional scratchy scream, (such as in "In the Lion's Den"), the vocals remain interesting and he continues unfettered. All this said, it's not even just his chaotic styling that makes a great impression; Morrison also proves to be a rather impressive singer throughout the course of the album. It's really not that he's the only driving force in the album, but I feel it would be a real inadequacy to slight his talents even marginally. And I don't mean to slight the musicians in this explanation. In fact, if it weren't for the musicians, Morrison's spastic vocals would seem out of place and without any real focus. The musicians as a whole do a great job creating and making the melodies in the songs really burst into life and then the spotlight. The guitarists, both Morrison himself and Jeremy Kindvall, do an exquisite job. Foregoing the usual piercing prog guitar approach, they stray towards a much more natural sound and it works extremely well. Both the drummer, Braden Dickie, and the bassist Levi Merry flow in and out of the tracks, becoming an integral part when they're needed and managing to make an impression despite their position near the backs of the arrangements.
While each musician in this band has an important part to play, and each does handle his responsibility well, their real talents lie in their ability to mesh their styles together to push their creative boundaries. For example, the shortest track on the album, "Wiser Is He" wouldn't sound nearly as enticing if it weren't for Morrison's mad crooning, while the behemoth crescendo near the end of "Black Winter" wouldn't sound complete without every member. These tracks all play like one long volume, and in each one, the band manages to push further and further what they established in the previous. The three part sequence, "I (Turn On)," "II (Tune In)" and "III (Drop Out)" assituated in the center of the album, truly plays like a series. And of course, this can be a problem in places as well; while their talent at melding soundscapes has become quite obvious by the time you reach the "Black Winter" and "I-II-III," it also begins to become harder and harder for me to pay attention to. I don't have a particularly short attention span, but even I find myself skipping to the highlights of the album as it's not uncommon for the tracks to run the course of six minutes.
The experimenation the band undertakes on this album is one of it's most endearing factors. Besides having a sound that just generally doesn't fit in the "mold," Morrison and crew pull quite a few tricks from their sleeves. The greatest example of this is the rapped verse in "Black Winter" where the band pulls in the help of one of their producers. It sounds great, fits the music excellently, and is a far cry in the right direction from all of the pseudo-prog bands that attempt that kind of feat. Spoken word sections, spacy electronics, and just a general disregard for the norm all become staples throughout the course of the album, and by the time you reach the stripped down "Apple Cider Whiskey (Is the Devil)" you have a real appreciation for its simpler arrangement. It proves to be a great way to close the album, slowing down it's pace (a bit), and giving Morrison, Kendvall and Dickie room to explore a subdued atmosphere. Really, that's what this whole album is about. Over the course of L'Implosion's hour-and-then-some playtime, the band explores nearly every facet of their sound that they can. Never seeming to cut back or reserve themselves, City of Sound do an excellent job both pushing their boundaries and creating an album that's wholly entertaining.
I grew up watching these guys in their high school bands. They've come a long way from their old material and are one of my favorite bands to watch live. You will rarely find a cd of this stature or style... A must see(live) and a must hear.