(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

CD review - Apache Beat, Last Chants (2010)

Sometimes, the music biz is all about "hurry up and wait": Apache Beat had originally planned to release Last Chants earlier this year, but it wasn't officially released until October 5. Their debut album includes their first single as a band, 2007's Tropics. A couple of other songs were released in the meantime, but this is their first real large scale musical splash.

Apache Beat doesn't comfortably fit into a simple genre. You could call it indie rock or maybe rhythmic post-punk with occasional synth pop contributions. None of that hits the target, though. The band's strength comes from a combination of interesting beats, very melodic bass playing, catchy guitar textures, some retro synths, and thick, chorused vocals. It's easy to hear that the songs on Last Chants all come from the same band, but the songs move around and avoid digging into any kind of creative rut.

The shift from the rollicking groove of Knives to the shimmery guitar intro for Walking on Fire is abrupt, but in a good way. That intro serves as a transition into the darker sound of the song itself. On the surface, it's indie rock driven by guitar riffs, but there's a lot going on. The drums are syncopated, creating a choppy beat that the vocals float over and the bass line threads the song together.

There are some interesting influences scattered about, from Let It Go, which sounds like a grown up Adam Ant with secrets in his past to the Andy Partridge (XTC) meets Talking Heads of A Break in the Light.

The earlier single, Tropics, is my favorite track. Free jazz horns wail over a jungle beat and a guitar figure. Then the groove kicks in, dark, threatening, and ritualistic. The close harmonies on the vocals add to the tension. This has the intensity of a Velvet Underground jam even if the sound is different.

The new single on Last Chants is Another Day, which mixes the feel of the Clash's Ghetto Defendant with an indie pop swirl. The guitar riffs and see-saw bass line form a tight backbone, while the vocals are almost playful. It has all of the elements of what makes Last Chants a great listen: catchy beats, intriguing sonic textures, and a change from the same old chord progressions. Hmm, instead of a beer, maybe this time I'll try a sweet hard cider...

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