Forming in 2012 Cascading Elephants are a duo from Baltimore, Maryland comprised of two guys only known as John and Ben. Ben is the guitarist, vocalist and synth programmer while John is the drummer and bassist. On their recent full-length album entitled Crowded they cruise through nine songs that could be labeled as synth pop. They fill the songs with a range of synths but it never feels overcrowded. They implement arpeggiated synths, pads, leads and more into lush compositions. The programming isn't anything you haven't heard before but contains enough engaging sounds that you won’t be bored. Despite a lot of synths throughout the album these are still vocal-based songs, which rely on the lead vocal to impart the emotional weight of the song.
The vocalist Ben seems to have a love affair with auto tune and it's not subtle. He doesn't use it as a corrective post-production technique but he uses it similarly to the way Daft Punk uses it. It did seem to overstay its welcome and I wouldn't have minded hearing his vocal without it.
The album kicks off with a track called “Intro,” which contains the most guitar you will hear throughout the record. It’s an all-instrumental upbeat track lasting about a-minute-and-a-half long. Next up is “Turles (F.R.),” which is one of the highlights of the album. The vocal melody is catchy and I enjoyed the ‘80s style arpeggiated synth. Ben’s voice is manipulated with not only the auto-tune robot like effect but also with delay.
“Never There” has an R&B type vibe that sounds good on the duo. The vocals have some soul and I enjoyed the thin yet effective digital percussive programming. As the album progresses there are a number of other highlights such as “Waiting For You” and “Distract Me.”
One issue with Crowded was the production. It wasn’t anything major but a couple of times the mix sounded a bit flat and not very dynamic. Additionally, the vocals sometimes felt like they were too separated from the rest of the instrumentation. Crowded’s biggest strength is that it is a fluid and cohesive statement. They established a style and deliver it.
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