Circa Survive evolves, Rye Baby gets simple
Circa Survive released their new album Descensus on Nov. 24. Their last album, Violent Waves, was released independently, so when Circa Survive signed to Sumerian Records, I was very excited to see what they would produce. And these guys have totally blown me away. Descensus sounds much closer to the older albums On Letting Go and Blue Sky Noise. The instrumentals are generally heavier and catchier, and less ethereal than Violent Waves.
Every song on the album is fantastic. The first track and single “Schema” is a heavy-hitting, fast-paced call to action. It’s a song that you sweat to. The drums and bass sync up and drive the rhythm while the guitars add layers of depth and body. I said the album was less ethereal than Violent Waves, but that doesn’t mean Circa Survive’s signature soundscape guitars aren’t here. Rather, I mean that the instruments are focused and every note is precise and purposeful. Everything builds on itself. Descensus is the apex of synergy between Circa Survive’s members.
And I haven’t even mentioned Anthony Green’s vocals. Just like the instruments, the vocal melodies are more tightly composed. Anthony ranges from high-pitched angelic to outright screaming, and it’s all spot on.
The tracks “Child of the Desert” and “Only the Sun” are album high points, if I had to choose. Both songs are catchy and aggressive. “Child of the Desert” starts with a drum-driven 5/4 beat. Bass grooves under the beat while guitars bounce and reverberate on top. Green’s vocals float around and pull you in with chorus harmonies. Then the end explodes into a heavy 3/4 beat reminiscent of psych-stoner rock.
Then we have “Only the Sun,” which sits on a dark, funky 3/4 beat. The bass slides up and down, hardly sounding like a bass guitar at all. Reverb stacks on the guitar and Green’s vocals swell and swoon. And three minutes into the song, it hits. The song goes halftime, Green’s vocals overlap with multiple lyrics…everything climaxes and drops quiet.
Two other songs were surprises on the album. “Phantom” is an electro-centric song with light and quick funk drumming. The song is soft and eerie, not exactly a rock song, but beautifully written. The minute-long interlude “Who Will Lay With Me Now” is similar, but is too short to get a good feel from it.
So—please go listen to this album. Circa Survive’s sound is unique and ever-evolving, and Descensus is the perfect starting point for falling in love with this band.
Local music duo Rye Baby is in the process of releasing their new album Cowboy Chords. Currently being released one song at a time on Bandcamp, Cowboy Chords is a work-in-progress that I’m very excited to see complete. Rye Baby embraces creating music with just two people. Their music is spaced out, with instrumentation fit for two musicians. This sparse instrumentation really forces the vocals to the front.
And the best part of Rye Baby is found in the voices of Jennifer Brumlow and Callie Harmon. The two voices really pair well together, with Brumlow singing mostly in the front and Harmon supporting with harmonies and counterpoints. Brumlow’s vocal style is hard to describe—she croons and shrieks, whispers and reverberates. The way she both controls her voice and sends it flying is mesmerizing. Then you have Harmon with the deeper, rooted harmonies and slow vibrato.
Because Rye Baby is a duo, the bandmates have to be experienced with multiple instruments. Of course, they both can sing wonderfully. But Brumlow and Harmon are also well versed in different instruments. On Cowboy Chords, Brumlow is listed as playing “guitar, mandolin, banjo, melodica, [and] percussion,” and Harmon, “guitar, mandolin, banjo, lap steel, [and] percussion.” And even though the two musicians play all these instruments, they forego overdubbing huge orchestrations that would include all their talent, and choose to record what could be played live between just the two of them. I like that.
Rye Baby gets at something simple with Cowboy Chords, and it feels good. These are songs that can be listened to any time in any situation. Rye Baby channels the folk-y Americana spirit into music that is at once soothing and haunting, familiar and strange. So far, Cowboy Chords is five tracks long, but I hope to see more recordings in the near future from these two. Because five songs just isn’t enough.