Atmospheric melodies are plentiful from the moment that we start off in “Porcelain Branches,” the opening track in The Magnetic South’s first album Sea Level. Surreal post-rock is met with a boldly evocative bite in this song and the six that will follow it, and though the stylization of the music is quite highbrow, it’s far from what I would consider to beinaccessible experimentalism. Despite this being their rookie offering as a group, the individuals who comprise The Magnetic South bring a wealth of experience with them into the studio, and it’s evident in everything from the grinding industrial riffage of “Zombie Death Grip” to the blinding vocal harmonies in “My Sun.”
Pulsating percussive beats greet as at the door in “Sunrise and Gravity,” and they’re soon joined by a glaring electric guitar that is rife with discordant distortion, but never feels quite as shapeless as the rhythm driving its sway does. “The Carnival” is a bit more relaxed and steeped in exotic eccentricities within its drum track, but in both of these songs, there are so many layers of tension that the few moments of genuine catharsis become all the more special. The vocals are velvety and woven directly into the fabric of the instrumentation in an almost seamless fashion from behind the soundboard – which, in itself, is no easy feat for any band, solo artist or producer to accomplish.
The guitars are the star in tracks like “Zombie Death Grip,” “My Sun” and the anthological closer “Sea Level,” and despite their larger than life construction, they aren’t the least bit virtuosic from a compositional point of view. Instead of boring us with a lot of predictable solos and manipulations of the old school blues model, The Magnetic South seem determined to dazzle us with the textures in their string play above all else. Sea Level presents a refreshing change of pace from the more streamlined rock records I’ve listened to lately, to say the least.
This is probably as beefy a master mix as the band could afford to utilize for this material considering the overwhelming grandiosity of the bass in the title track, the gritty cosmetics of the grunge anthem “Faceless” (a tip of the hat to Alice in Chains’ Facelift, perhaps?) and the blustery minimalism of “The Carnival.” It gets a little overbearing in a couple of spots, but even at its most abrasive, I really think that it adds to the moodiness of the music wonderfully.
I’m really intrigued by the seven songs contained on The Magnetic South’s Sea Level, and I must admit that I’m quite curious to hear more from this group’s camp in the future.
There’s a progressive nuance to the music here that I’d love to hear them exploit a bit further in their next album, and though the physicality of the production quality leaves little room for complaint if you love a powerhouse listening experience as much as I do, I have a feeling that these songs would be even more captivating in a live setting. I’ll have to find out for myself at some point, and hopefully the band won’t keep me waiting too long.
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