Rye Pines - Dead Ocean

by Warwick Stubbs Rating:4 Release Date:2015-02-23

I don't blame the singer for sounding like Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse, but the comparison would lose weight if the rest of the band stopped trying to repeat the same dynamic meanderings which accompanied that band's first two or three albums. I had a listen to the preceding album, A Portrait of Dissonance as a Young Man, and felt somewhat frustrated by the indecision of wanting to sound like either Modest Mouse or Pixies, which seems futile considering they're basically the same band. I don't like everything by Modest Mouse - the first album meanders way too much, but 'Dramamine' is a work of pure concentrated genius.

Here, on Dead Ocean, I can't help feeling that not being able to sing is the basic premise, but it would probably serve the music with greater merit if there was even an attempt at singing something tuneful. 

Dead Ocean has the good sense to start with a sinister but alluring guitar attack that ends far too early, though it does nicely segue into a strong performance in the first full song 'Limbo Shuffle'. I wouldn't have been so hard on the Modest Mouse comparison if the chorus hadn't attached some backing vocal laughs. It is a nice touch, don't get me wrong - when the Modest Mouse sound arrives, it arrives with confidence.

I am more impressed by the fourth track 'In the Wake', which combines dissonant feedback with dark cries and stabs of guitar attacks. On this song, Rye Pines sound like they have got a much stronger sense of what they want to do, and how they want their music to swing with some attack.

The same feeling comes through on the next track, 'Drone Tone', where the repeated guitar chord and vocals drone on but are broken by an occasional simple riff every four or so bars. This drone, unfortunately, ends at the three-minute mark and all the Modest Mouse comparisons suddenly return with a song that seems to spring straight from The Lonesome Crowded West's vaults. Truly unfortunate, because at the six-minute mark the song is more Rye Pines than anything, as though that short preceding interlude was a wasted space where they could have developed the original riff - taking down the dynamics, charging them up - to greater effect. Thankfully, that original drone returns in a far more concentrated form for the last minute or so.

Dead Ocean is a six-track EP with most songs lasting only two minutes or so. Everything feels underdeveloped, but there is some confidence, and without doubt these six songs on their own rise above their previous full-length effort.

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