REVIEWS | FEATURES | DEPARTMENTS | BOOMBOX | PODCAST | MISC
SEARCH:
splendid > reviews > 7/17/2004
The Horns of Happiness
The Horns of Happiness
A Sea as a Shore
Secretly Canadian


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Wonders"

Buy me now
Aaron Deer, of The Impossible Shapes and John Wilkes Booze fame, is the heart and soul of this eclectic group; he has surrounded himself with familiar players (Chris Barth, Jason Groth, Mark Rice and Peter King, all Impossible Shapes members) but changed the moniker. A mix of gentle, modern psychedelia in the vein of The Flaming Lips, and Galaxie 500-style space rock, A Sea as a Shore is surprisingly soothing and beautiful, despite its constant, violent jumps in rhythm and instrumentation. When, in the middle of "Asleep in the Already Known", the synths, loops and glitches that are bleeding out a watercolor wash of sound abruptly stop, and are replaced by a down-home plucked guitar, the transition is more hypnotic than jarring. Eventually, it gets noisier again, coming full-circle with bombastic drums and relentless guitar.

The album hangs together like hand-stitched patches in a quilt: it's a mishmash of sound, but all the colors are in the same family. Many of the songs are instrumentals, and they relate strongly to each other, their themes recurring throughout the album. On the disc's few vocal tracks, the voice is just another instrument. "Wonders" is a succulent delicacy, beginning with a few pompous piano chords and eventually incorporating a pounded piano melody, a juicy bass riff, rhythmic keyboards and a wispy accordion solo -- all in ninety seconds. The folkier "Of Whistling and Wine" follows; changes in atmosphere from song to song, and even within songs, simulate the effect of being on a Disneyland ride where you can go from sailing through a starry sky to being on Captain Hook's ship in a matter of seconds. "Under a Dim Light" approaches Philip Glass territory during a brief moment of glittering saxophone cacophony, underscored by piano mayhem fluttering down like shards of a broken skyscraper. Then, seconds later, handclaps and plucked banjo note thrust you back onto a creaky back porch in the Deep South.

The only instance in which this jumpy technique is disorienting and slightly frustrating is the unfortunate case of "A Twist of Snakes". A minute and a half into the already established song, there comes the most maddeningly gorgeous morsel -- a toy piano melody that arrives with the bravado of "Get Back Honky Cat", aching to be the next huge anthem, perfect in its absolute pop divinity. But once you're all revved up and ready for an incredible revelation, the song ends! Kudos for the amazing moment, guys, but I wanted it to be an entire, fully developed song. Talk about leaving them wanting more...

Instrumental "The Blood Trail pt.2" is another standout, creating a distinct environment (a carnival haunted house), and evoking a wide variety of feelings by weaving delightful cartoon sounds and splashes of (I believe) electric calliope with scary, discordant keyboard and piano.

A Sea is a Shore as a cohesive work feels like a living, breathing organism in a flux as constant as the sea. Instruments pant relentlessly, take deep breaths and sigh heavily, and when Chris Barth sings, "I'm breathing in this room" in "Bursting Breathe", it feels like the album's most appropriate lyric.



REVIEWS:

12/31/2005:
Ladytron

Brian Cherney

Tomas Korber

UHF

The Rude Staircase

Dian Diaz

12/30/2005:
Helloween

PTI

The Crimes of Ambition

Karl Blau

Rosetta

Gary Noland

12/29/2005:
Tommy and The Terrors

Blacklisted

Bound Stems

Gary Noland

Carlo Actis Dato and Baldo Martinez

Quatuor Bozzoni

12/28/2005:
The Positions

Comet Gain

Breadfoot featuring Anna Phoebe

Secret Mommy

The Advantage

For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records

12/27/2005:
The Slow Poisoner

Alan Sondheim & Ritual All 770

Davenport

Beaumont

Five Corners Jazz Quintet

Cameron McGill

Drunk With Joy

12/26/2005:
10 Ft. Ganja Plant

The Hospitals

Ross Beach

Big Star

The Goslings

Lair of the Minotaur

Koji Asano



Splendid looks great in Firefox. See for yourself.
Get Firefox!


FEATURES:
Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste probably didn't even know that he'd be the subject of Jennifer Kelly's final Splendid interview... but he is!



DEPARTMENTS:
That Damn List Thing
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo
Bookshelf
Pointless Questions
File Under
Pointless Questions
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo


ARCHIVE:
Read reviews from the last 30, 60, 90 or 120 days, or search our review archive.

It's back! Splendid's daily e-mail update will keep you up to date on our latest reviews and articles. Subscribe now!
Your e-mail address:    
REVIEWS | FEATURES | DEPARTMENTS | BOOMBOX | PODCAST | MISC
SEARCH:
All content ©1996 - 2011 Splendid WebMedia. Content may not be reproduced without the publisher's permission.