September 9, 2009

CRUSTCAKE REVIEWS: CONSTANTS - THE FOUNDATION, THE MACHINE, THE ASCENSION

Constants

by crustcake gerf (NYC)

Constants - The Foundation, The Machine, The AscensionDownload: Constants - "Those Who Cmae Before pt. 1" [MP3]

Constants' fourth release, The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension, is a gorgeous record, both musically and physically. With artwork by Ira Bronson (Junius, Tombs, Circle Takes the Square) splayed out across a trifold triple LP (180 gram, if I'm not mistaken) is stunning. It's got the thickest spine of any record I own. Each 'movement' of the album is on a separate record, and in the case of the one I reviewed (limited to 100 copies, now unfortunately sold out) each record is a different color: "The Foundation" on brown vinyl, "The Machine" on gray vinyl, and "The Ascension" on clear. From The Mylene Sheath's (the label) website:

The triple gatefold jackets that house the vinyl contain no less than 6 FEET of artwork, upgraded to 350gsm stock with spot gloss across the top of the jackets. Mastered by Nick Zampiello at New Alliance East (Torche, Converge, Isis, Caspian).
Other labels, are you listening? THIS is how you release vinyl!

Let's get to the music. On this album, the band's songwriting is much more concise and focused than on past efforts. There are clearly over-arching thematic elements to the record and the record has a very consistent sound from song to song. Constants can most accurately be filed under 'post-rock,' but not the instrumental Explosions-in-the-Sky-wanna-be variety. One can certainly hear the influence of the aforementioned band here, but not in an overly derivative way like so many other bandwagon jumpers. One also hears Maserati in guitarist/vocalist Will Benoit's highly-structured delay pedal passages, but I'm not entirely sure who influenced who in this case. Similarly, there is evidence of the influence of contemporary composers such as Steve Reich, but filtered through a rock lens.

This album, which was recorded by Daryl Rabidoux at Strangeways Recordings and Benoit at various locations, is quite a bit more polished and refined than Constants' past work and there are positive and negative aspects to this. On the one hand, the record does sound quite a bit fuller and more consistent than the band's previous efforts. However, if I had to say anything negative about the album at all it would be this: the band seems to be lacking energy somewhat. The recordings seem almost too reserved, too refined. They lack the endearing over-ambition of the band's debut album, 2004's Nostalgia For The Future and the energetic, rough-around-the-edges sound of 2006's The Murder of Tom Fitzgerril. I attribute the change to two factors: improved production and tighter performances. Since 2006 the band has changed drummers, and there's a distinct difference in the style of current drummer Rob Motes, as compared to past drummer Duncan Rich-- Motes is more focused, less adventurous whereas Rich was always thinking outside the box and challenging himself and the listener alike.

Overall, a giant leap forward for Constants. If, on their next record, they can find a happy medium between the mature, focused nature of The Foundation... and the raw, youthful energy of past efforts, Constants will truly be a force to be reckoned with.

Audible - 8/10
Physical - 9.5/10

Front Cover
Front Cover

Back Cover
Back Cover

Inside Spread
Inside Spread

Outside Spread
Outside Spread

Art Detailed
Art Detailed

LP Brown
LP Brown

LP Grey
LP Grey

LP Clear
LP Clear

[Buy] Constants - The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension

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