Six Gallery – Breakthroughs in Modern Art
Record Label: unsigned
Release Date: June, 2009
Nobody likes a showoff, but let’s be honest: Six Gallery plays guitar better than you.
This fact becomes readily apparent in the first few minutes of the Columbus, OH’s debut LP Breakthroughs in Modern Art. What isn’t immediately apparent to those unfamiliar with the band’s mathy guitar breakdowns and flitting, frenetic percussion is that a massive change has taken place in Six Gallery’s musical mentality. Such is the case when an instrumental band moves to a new town, trades out a drummer, and decides to give the whole vocalist thing a whirl. Has starting over ever sounded so good?
Provocative hyperbolic questions aside, there’s no denying the fact that Six Gallery’s latest costume change is an inspired look. The musical machine gun of Will Vokac and Ben Schreiber’s finger-tapped guitars is still there, but the addition of Daniel Francis’ fervent vocals has pushed the group into uncharted territory. One could go on and on about the ways in which Francis bounces from expression to expression, often ripping into a soulful cry before sinking into a whisper (give the standout “Built to Last” a try). His rambling lyrics drop facts, allusions, secrets, and tall-tales with equal earnestness and we’re not sure whether to believe all of it or none of it. The sheer excitement his stories offer sprints arm-in-arm with the sparkling guitars with an incredibly balanced, energetic effect.
It’s this symmetry that sets Six Gallery apart. From a band known for its instrumental aptitude, it’s nice that the shift to a vocally-driven band has not actually manifested itself in a shift to a vocally-driven band. Guitars and vocals are given equal footing, harmonizing rather than dueling on the platform created by the talents of Alex Weinhardt (Bass) and Ben Miller (drums). “A Live Nativity Scene” epitomizes this dichotomy. Francis takes a turn with some poignant lines before stepping aside as electric riffs drip and dot into place. The two then join for a pulsing chorus that leads into the explosive final two minutes of the track. “Say Matte” takes a similar approach, subtracts some attack, and adds a touch of smokiness to create a thing of beauty. The only song that can’t seem to identify itself is “Just Hey,” a jolting trip through disorganized, heady breakdowns that gets lost somewhere along the way.
The majority of the album’s tunes tend to blossom organically, casually (but not unnaturally) eschewing the typical verse-chorus format. Crystalline riffs and earthy bass blips intertwine, vine-like, with shakers and snares in “Edie & the Marble Faun,” forming a song so cavernous it feels as if we could sneak right on in. It’s borderline disarming, a characteristic that can easily catch up on an unsuspecting listener. At times, between the kaleidoscopic instrumentation and the delirious story-telling, it can be difficult to locate one’s self in the din.
Still, the transition from instrumental to full band has been successfully navigated and it has resulted in an LP that could have easily been a mess of missteps, but isn’t. Despite its ironic title, Breakthroughs in Modern Art is clearly not afraid to show something new. You won’t even need the pretentious instrumental secret song to prove the fact that Six Gallery plays their guitars much better than you. And now that they have a vocalist, you’d better watch out.
The world is unfair to bands like these, who simply do not get the attention they deserve.
Please do check them out, their music is fresh and exciting.
Great review by the way, persuaded me to give them a go, and im glad i did.
This review reminds me that I need to work a lot harder.
Hot damn you make me look paltry.
Truly incredible stuff. Cheers. As for the band, I'm still feeling it out.
This is a good review, but yours are awesome too Greg. Just reminding you bro!
Travis: I definitely enjoyed your description of their dynamic shift from primary instrumental to the addition of a vocalist. I love when instrumental bands add that needed element. Some, however, do it unsuccessfully. Based on your review, though, Six Gallery seems to have done it right.