(Human Identity Recordings, Digital Download)
The last we heard from Plattsburgh’s Resonator, they were thrilling the post-rock set — locally and beyond — with an excellent debut album, Lost Language. Impeccably conceived and executed, the disc served up a maelstrom of genre-bending improvisational guitar fire worthy of its place among Seven Days’ top-10 albums of 2006. But then . . . well, nothing, really. Things have been mighty quiet for the northern New York trio since their last gig opening for avant-garde rockers Battles in Montréal more than a year ago. But take heart, prog fans, the fruit of that downtime is an intriguing new offering entitled New Born Suns, which picks up where the band left off, with cleverly bracing sonic forays. To be sure, this is hardly a rehash.
While Suns exhibits many earmarks of the band’s first venture — turn-on-a-dime genre-hopping, cerebral improvisation and, of course, deft musicianship — it also marks a distinct evolution in style. In many ways the new album is a more muscular sibling to its predecessor, which is even more remarkable when you consider the emphasis on melody and arrangement.
Take, for example, the first track, “Feeding the Inferno.” A driving, sinister, space-surf jaunt not unlike some of The Mermen’s earlier work, the tune is like five songs in one — and clocks in at a shade under three minutes, no less. To paraphrase Hobbes — Thomas, not the tiger — it is “nasty, brutish and short.” But in a good way. Though the changes come fast and furious, they come naturally, each surprising twist building on the preceding turn before gracefully wiping out in a wash of tremolo.
Despite the album’s numerous stylistic pirouettes, that opening track serves as a telling microcosm of the larger whole. Through each fiery melodic swoon, every rhythmic shift and harmonic shuffle, there is clearly design with a keen intent toward serving each song — and by extension, the entire album — as an artistic entity of its own. Ideas and themes are fully realized and executed with tact and ingenuity. Suns is a welcome reminder that “jam” wasn’t always a four-letter word, and that “improvise” doesn’t really mean “make it up as you go along” or “solo ad infinitum.”
Though Resonator has no concrete plans to do so, there have been rumblings of a return to live performance this year. Consider these fingers crossed. In the meantime, we’ll just have to make do with New Born Suns. And really, that isn’t such a bad thing. You can download it for free at www.humanidentity.net.