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Pattern is Movement
Pattern is Movement
Stowaway
NFI


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Talk Back to Me"

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Stowaway sways drunkenly between elegant orchestral pop and a tangled, melodic, top-heavy take on off-kilter math rock. Pattern is Movement falter when they play up their rhythmic complexity for its own sake, but at their finest, they meld seemingly independent melodies and rhythms into a compelling whole. They make an awkward and perhaps over-eager first impression, but their complicated music grows exponentially more rewarding with each listen.

Opener "Maple" is one of the record's most complicated and bizarre songs. Its refrain -- "I love you when you come near / standing naked in the door" -- captures an exquisite moment, but after the thirtieth repetition this candid revelation feels a little creepy and the vocals sound increasingly forced. A device the band uses throughout Stowaway first rears its head as the vocal melody doubles with an identical keyboard line in 4/4, while two intricate guitar lines follow a rhythmic logic all their own, bobbing like marionettes operated by puppeteers on ecstasy in the background. While the rhythmic playfulness is hypnotic, it's all a bit much, and the melodic doubling and tripling doesn't make the band any less overwhelming.

"It's the Wine" features more melodic redundancy. Lead singer Andrew Thiboldeaux gets in on the act, wailing along in sync with a faint Rhodes line. This only makes him stand out less in a sea of dissimilar elements, each one traveling at its own pace -- although, to the band's credit, these disparate sounds eventually converge in an impressive (if excessively flashy) climax.

Pattern is Movement are at their best when their intricate rhythms don't take center stage. For instance, in "Never Liked This Time Of Day"'s Broadway musical-style refrain, drummer Chris Ward hammers quarter-note triplets on the hi-hat while the rest of the band swings along happily, finding rich musical rewards in the mundane rhythms they usually spurn.

Stowaway achieves a unique dichotomy: it's deeply awkward, but also immediately engaging. If you're the kind of listener who actually goes to the trouble of counting out meters, you'll love it. Fortunately, Pattern is Movement should also appeal to less mathematically-oriented listeners -- their compositions are as emotionally resonant as they are richly arranged.



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