Here’s a full length version of my latest FACT review. I initially picked it up because I was ordering the Jesu/Battle Of Mice split from those fine people at Robotic Empire (surely that’s good for a freebie) and the blurb for this caught my eye. I have to admit to major ignorance on City Of Caterpillar (one of the bands from whose loins VEC has sprung), outside one song I downloaded and thought was great. I must get their one and only album. Anyway, Lea asked me to review something and, given that I had listened to this loads and the Jesu no times – I decided to review this little blighter.
Just a quick note on shipping. Too often does a label just plonk the whole shebang in a mailer and send it off without thinking. This more often than not (increasingly so given the burgeoning market of heavyweight records 180g+) results in your disc shuddering about in transit damaging your inner sleeve, and sometimes the outer case. Remember? Robotic Empire is a label that ships your record in the inner sleeve, outside the case, but within the plastic outer-wrap. The result was a record and sleeve(s) in perfect condition: this is grand not only because the label saw fit to include a CD of the recording in with the vinyl copy, but because everything I have bought bearing the brand of R.E. has looked absolutely lovely. Anyway, the review:
Verse En Coma – Rialto (Robotic Empire, 2008)
There was once a band from Boston (technically Methuen I think) called Cave In. They released an album, Jupiter, in late 2000, which was brilliant. Before that, though, they were merely very promising. They released an E.P., name of Creative Eclipses, which had one staggering song, some good ones and some experimentation.
I was all set to write a state-of-the-scene address for 2000, as I misguidedly thought this Verse En Coma E.P. was an old lost recording that never saw the light of day. It transpires Rialto is actually the new release of a band formed from the various ashes of PG.99, City Of Caterpillar and Malady, though the songs were written in 2005, the recording made in 2006 and mixed at the start of 2007. This is all quite odd, as I was rather more enamoured of it when it was from 2000.
Rialto really does sound like mid period Cave In, during that window in which the latter had stopped being Noisecore, and before they signed to RCA. That is a good thing to recall when it means strong vocal melodies (with a striking vocal-timbral similarity to Steve Brodsky, to boot) and those rather year 2000 high pitched guitar screes. You know the ones: Godspeed were big fans of using them to draw sweeping chalk lines over their violin-and-drum dust storm backdrops.
This is less of the twenty minute epics, and more about draping that aesthetic onto more traditional five minute skeletons. At times this search for the dramatic reminds of The Arcade Fire, but an abstract Arcade Fire that doesn’t actually sound like a Stars in Their Eyes contestant attempting to ‘be’ the Waterboys. But it does sound like a hidden gem that lay under rather more years of dust than it actually did: it’s a bit dated in a Garrison-on-Kranky sense, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
This review may appear to bear the sheen of negativity; it is with this in mind I clarify that the five songs on here are of high quality. Emotionally affecting in a way bands such as These Arms Are Snakes only occasionally are, Verse En Coma comes through repeat listens with flying colours. One only hopes a full length album is not as long in gestation; if so the quality here makes investigating related bands like Darkest Hour a tempting prospect.
They also took the time to answer a few questions, which was nice. Given the fact that there were references to Ryan, Brian, Kevin and Jonathan, I came to the conclusion it was guitarist Jeff Kane. So thanks Jeff! Whatever the identity, he answered questions about the genesis of the record, influences and taste. Sadly this info arrived too late for publication, so I reproduce some of it on this modest blog, hoping it is okay with the band.
‘For the most part the songs were written around the same time, in the Spring/Summer of 2005. 3 of us were previously in the band Malady….much of the Rialto EP is later Malady material that was never finished.
I think we did the initial drum tracks for the record in May or June of 2005 with Ryan Parrish. Myself and Kevin were in the band City of Caterpillar with Ryan from 2000-2003. We’d always loved playing with him but his schedule with Darkest Hour made it difficult to get much done.
We had known Brian Markham from our time living in Richmond, VA. We loved his vocals in his previous band You are the Drum and knew we wanted him to sing on the recording. He was living in Seattle at the time so we sent him rough mixes of the record and he began working on vocals. I dont think we actually got together and recorded vocals until around May 2006.’
He went on to mention he had not yet seen a physical copy of the record, which must have been frustrating considering (a) the time spent making the bally thing and (b) some idiot in northern England has it in his grubby mitts already. He went on to describe the difficulties in operating as a band whose members reside so far apart, and work in bands of varying commercial success:
‘We also knew that it would probably be impossible to be an active band with the people we chose to make the record with.
We still have hopes of someday touring and playing shows, but with everyones current life circumstances it is unlikely. In the past 3 Jonathan and I have had babies. Ryan is continuing to tour non stop with Darkest Hour. Brian is living in New York now playing in a band called Ancient Skies.’
Regarding my comparisons with turn of the century Cave In: ‘To my knowledge none of us are that into Cave In.’ Fair enough then.
I asked about a tour, because I reckon these songs would take on another dimension in the live arena, and they would fit perfectly in with the imminent These Arms Are Snakes/Russian Circles tour. ‘We dont have any plans to do touring anywhere’, I was told. ‘We have gotten more interest in Europe for doing tours than in the states. Our previous bands City of Caterpillar, Malady, Haram, Pg. 99 etc. always seemed to have a much better follwing in Europe…..dont know why that is. We’d love to go….we’ll try to make it happen.’
Fingers crossed! I’ll see what an idiot picking his nose in Leeds can do with no knowledge of tour logistics. It’d be a fun experiment. So watch this space for developments, both of the tour and seeing if the band manages to release anything else. Many thanks to Verse En Coma for taking the time to correspond with little ol’ me. Check ’em out!