Art By Numbers - Reticence: The Musical
Record Label: Self-Released
Release Date: May 29, 2012
It’s a bit of a disappointment when musicianship tends to trump out songwriting – an issue many seem to have with the nature of progressive and technical music regardless of the genre. Art By Numbers’ debut full-length Reticence: The Musical on the other hand seems to be able to give us both sides of the equation in twelve tracks of sonically snipping post-hardcore. Sometimes jazzy and orchestral, though more often than not pulling from the frantic guitar work of bands like Protest the Hero or The Human Abstract, Reticence is an exercise in expansion of sound, challenging us to embrace both technicality and a ‘further down the rabbit hole’ mindset in the band’s debut full-length. And to be truthful, it works more often than not.
Art By Numbers' twist on progressive post-hardcore is particularly fueled by two things – trying to combine a number of musical elements into one cohesive sound and the fact that the band's guitarists sought out to further their ability at the instrument by studying under The Human Abstract's A.J. Minette. But these tunes rely much on the energetic entity of the melodies more often than not, pacing such songs as the aptly named “Delusions of Grandeur” – a track that sets the album’s tone and pacing with huge vocals and windingly epic guitar licks. Spiced up with the ever present piano rips (see also “Regression to the Meme”, “Au Revoir” for more piano action) , this song perfectly prepares us for what Reticence is all about – dynamic instrumentals that never quite embody one genre completely. “Meme” brings us a burst of abrasion a la breakdown – if only momentarily – counterbalancing the dirty guitar riff that pops in and out of the track, while “Panacea” tip toes the post-hardcore line hard with a frantic introduction before laying down some completely ridiculous fretwork. The musical talent of this band seems more prevalent on “Panacea” and the moody, less compact moments of “Memoire Insuffisante” – that is before the latter blasts us with a section of slick rhythmic assaults and more intense riffing.
Yet, everything about Reticence isn’t quite settled in the realm of near-breakdowns and mesmerizing melodies. “Best Laid Plans” is a peculiar case, fronting with a whistle and snap beginning before sliding in smooth bass and jazzy drums to sound more in tune with grandiose pop-rock than anything else. “Reyes” gives us a similar switchup, trading a latin-based mindset for some off-kilter palm-mutes and unrelenting percussion backing. While such classical sounds lie in the undertones through other songs, these particular songs bring them more to the forefront – further adding to the variance on this record.
There’s certainly a lot going on here musically though, causing vocalist Anthony James to get lost a bit in the process. It’s tough at times for him to keep up with such technical work going on behind him, as “Reyes” shows moments where James seems like the odd man out. That isn’t to say the vocals don’t have their moments, as the left and right field musical examples of “Black Water Rush” and “Best Laid Plans” show James in command of his vocal lines to a point that he is helping push the tracks and himself into more confident territory. The sparse additions of more scream-based vocals are a nice touch as well, as Art By Numbers doesn’t rely on them to a point of using them all the time and instead make them an exclamation point – not a distraction.
Musically, it seems whatever Art By Numbers has done to prepare for and write this album has reaped impressive results. Though there’s a lot to take in between these tracks, the strong technical ability of this band coupled with a solid songwriting ability makes Reticence: The Musical a very honest and well-constructed debut. For a band that is trying to bring a number of influences together, Art By Numbers undoubtedly make a bold statement that still leaves room for them to push themselves further in the future.
I back this review hard. The production seems kinda off too. Not sure if that was cause of the stream but I felt like the vocals could have been pushed forward in the mix and the guitar a little sharper. Regardless, amazing album and awesome review
To be honest, I really love this album. I have listened to it through and through, multiple times pretty much every day since it came out. And I'm always finding things I love even more. These guys totally put together one of the best albums I've heard in a while, probably since Digital Veil. But good review.