When a band departs from a genre they have become used to in order to experiment with something that is the polar opposite to their sound, the results are generally very good or very bad. Though sometimes there those that fall somewhere in the middle, that are worth a listen to see if they stand on their own, to see if anything has really been changed.
In the case of Minneapolis’ Dark River Lion, a band who now make electronically tinged rock n roll but whose members used to, in other forms play folky Americana roots-rock, the dive into the more electronic based universe is a new horizon. For their debut Catasonic, Dark River Lion went with a Korg TR 74 for its synth of choice and brought in the beats courtesy of Fruityloops and Garage Band.
From the get go Catasonic’s opener “Skies” comes off like a Radiohead-ish rambler. It builds up using a clean piano and humming organ over a pretty straightforward drum machine beat and then later lets the synths whizz around deep wails of electric guitar, before slowing down to a clean and quiet ending. By the very next track “Zoo” one however hears the echoes of those old folk songs bleeding through the synths and programmed beats. It shows even more on the guitar ballad “Shine Bright.”
Things take a slight turn towards more electronic leanings on “Paid to See the Moon” which begins with mellow lounge act piano and then turns into a spastic electric guitar fueled fugue. On the title track, “Catasonic” it seems that Dark River Lion have finally pegged the electronic pop sound they have been so hankering after. They keep this streak going on the ambient space-pop tune “Unlit.” The pop continues nicely on the “Motorcycle” with its bright and airy Beach Boys inspired vocal harmonies. Catasonic winds down with the all-electric instrumental “Rhodey” and closes big with the trippy “Pacific______”
I give the guys in Dark River Lion a great deal of credit for venturing into an entire different genre than what they have been used to. However the first half of Catasonic proves they have not yet shed all of their old influences. The second half of the record has some bright spots to it though there is still much that could use some polishing. As it stands however Catasonic is great record for those looking for something off the beaten path.
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