Monday, September 15, 2008

Gold Sounds: sBACH's new s/t album reviewed

sBACH is the name of Spencer Seim's solo project. Seim plays guitar for Hella and also drums for The Advantage. Those familiar with either musical venture know, in a way, what to expect, and fans of both bands can almost entirely predict the album's sound. Seim takes equal parts Hella and The Advantage, adds a little extra 8-bit influence and blends them together to create this self-titled album.

Seim knows a good thing when he hears it. Songs such as "04" and "08" present really intriguing material, especially "08" with its complex, feedback-filled and awe-inspiring central guitar riff and surrounding drum/electronic freakout. Without a doubt, the song claims the crown of the album's best track. It's worth noting that "08" is significantly longer than most of the other tracks on the album (which, if you can't tell, are all named "01," "02," etc.). It's also worth noting that the intro of "01" is actually the intro to "08," but "01" abruptly switches gears about 25 seconds into the track to introduce a totally different-sounding song, full of guitar-picking and somewhat annoying beeping noises, which are reminiscent of a cell phone's default ringtone at times. Eventually the beeping speeds up in frequency and, thankfully, the track ends soon after.

As with "01", most of the album's 13 tracks run no longer than three minutes, and these tracks are basically hit-or-miss. There are a lot of good songs here, but most of them prove to be either much more interesting than enjoyable or much more enjoyable than interesting; the two are nearly always mutually exclusive. This situation causes most of the tracks to be pretty bland. For example, the screeching electronics of "03" nearly make the track unlistenable, which is unfortunate because the other aspects of the track are very well done. There's something to be said for experimentation, but experimentation at the chance of alienating the listener always proves risky, and unfortunately this kind of experimentation permeates the album. On the other end of the spectrum, "06" provides a great synth melody and accompanying outer space-esque bleeps and bloops. Nothing too crazy goes on in the song, but it makes for one of the album's best tracks.

It's of course worth noting Seim's obvious high level of musicianship. His guitar work in the songs is undoubtedly complex, as is his frantic drumming. The problem here isn't with his musical abilities, but with his ideas and how they're executed. For every good song on the album, there's a complimentary one that seems haphazardly pieced together, ruining the album's flow time and time again. Overall, the strength of the good tracks definitely warrants at least the initial full listen, but the large number of mediocre ones definitely hurts the album's replay value.

The album is out now on Suicide Squeeze records. sBACH will also be touring with Pinback this fall, with shows in the northeast spread throughout the beginning of October.

Rating: 5.5/10. Key tracks: 06, 08

Listen: Myspace

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