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

Monday, October 31, 2011

CD review - MUTEMATH, Odd Soul (2011)

Diverse sounds and stark contrasts, but rooted in soulful, old school rock
MUTEMATH may have some roots in Christian rock, but the band has made efforts to distance themselves from the segregated market niche that implies. On Odd Soul, the occasional lyric may reference spiritual matters, but the message is more about the music than the Good Word.

That musical message on Odd Soul is rooted in a contemporary interpretation of bluesy soul. While MUTEMATH hasn't abandoned all electronic elements here, the bulk of the album has a retro vibe and saturated, lo-fi vocals that beg for comparison to the Black Keys. But they're not so much derivative as mining some of the same influences.

What makes the album click is the diversity of sounds, even within a single song. Stark contrasts, like the grinding beat and updated Bad Company vibe of Odd Soul against the electro pop, artificial sound of All or Nothing, can be jarring. But the tracks generally feature enough sonic shift to provide a larger context.

The arrangements are well crafted to setting a solid mood while showing off the band's technical strengths. A short interlude like Sun Ray conveys a reflective, jazzy vibe, but attentive ears will appreciate Darren King's impressive drum work and how it balances against the slinky guitar line. Similarly, the warbling organ on Cavalries sets up a psychedelic soul groove. The opening bounces before sliding into a breakneck drive that suggests Edgar Winter's Frankenstein. Once again, the drums are phenomenal.

Blood Pressure, a great choice as one of Odd Soul's singles, features a stripped down start. Tightly wound, the verses sound a bit like Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus, but the chorus splits the song wide open. The dynamics create a delicious tension. This is begging for the drawn out jam of a live version.

The last three tracks orchestrate a perfect flow. Equals balances retro funk rock with a floating chorus before melting into the sprawling jam of Quarentine. Here, the funk riffs veer into prog rock territory and back before wrapping up with an electro-mechanical sound. This nerve rattling finish drags out before finally dropping into the reprieve of In No Time. It's gently comforting, but subtly builds into an hopeful anthem:
Where's your heart gone and where's your soul?
When did all of your faith go?
And where's that old spark, a failure stole?
Well, I'll bet we'll find it in no time at all
Spiritual, but not particularly preachy. MUTEMATH alludes to their origins and keeps moving forward.

No comments:

Post a Comment