The Chicago rock scene is pulsing with garage pop spawned from a combination of rock n’ roll and noise. The Orwells’ tree has seeded Twin Peaks, The Drafts and Post-Animal (just to name a few), all of which harken to the underground rock of the sixties and seventies. Rock n roll can resonate with any generation and Chicago certainly isn’t occluding what is once again in vogue.
New York’s Faster Than Light has surveyed the musical reticulation, and is carving its own niche. Expect a rivalry to arise once musicians in the Midwest sink into FTL’s Dwell. Energetic, and resistant to categorization, the five-song EP sets itself apart from the contemporary retro musical aesthetic in one monumental way—it’s almost exclusively instrumental. But don’t call it post-rock.
Dwell is equal parts ethereal and energetic, never boring or falling into the maligned trope of feeling forlorn. While there are hints of American Football, and a trace of Explosions in the Sky, Dwell is far more Apostrophe or The Grand Wazzo by Frank Zappa than American Football or The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. The songs employ elements of jazz, but explore far beyond the ersatz conventions of today’s instrumental bands.
Groove—rather than introspection—is the focus here, and the emphasis on succinctness and flow (the EP sounds like one long song, rather than five segments) exemplifies how straightforward Dwell actually is; listeners won’t find prolonged atmospheric passages, protracted crescendos, and pretentious, parabolic song structures. Those are anything but groovy. Few bands exist that bring the same fervent passion to speakers; Sounds of Quincy and Strawberry Girls are the only outfits doing anything remotely close to FTL right now.
While the past material (see: …See You Starside and Moment of Chaos) featured songwriter Nate Jasensky’s vocals, the lack thereof gives this newest release a distinguishing characteristic. The trait is a double-edged sword though. Vocals are almost always the first thing casual listeners identify with; it’s difficult to foresee Faster Than Light crossing the mainstream threshold, but I think this makes the music all the more intimate and important.
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