Rogue Valley began their career with a shot. In 2009 the newly-minted Minneapolis rock quintet decided that their first foray as a band would be to put out four records in one year. Each record would represent one of the four seasons. They were intended to thematically tell the stories of time with themes parallel to time such as love, loss, landscape and memory. The undertaking became known collectively as the Seasons Project and many of the songs found their way into television shows and films, perhaps most famously the illustrious Ben Stiller project The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Not bad for an ambitious and very newly formed band.
But that was then and this is now. To call the six or so years between the Seasons Project and their latest record radiate/dissolve a hiatus wouldn’t be true at all. The band recognized the Seasons Project as a sprint. It was meant to be and needed to be just that in order to be able to both capture the moments in time as they happened but also to be able to fulfill the ambitious undertaking of such a project. And being that the Seasons Project was born out of such an ambitious nature it only seems right that a band with as much artistic courage as Rogue Valley has that they wouldn’t want to make a carbon copy follow up.
And radiate/dissolve bears little resemblance to Rogue Valley’s earlier work. The twelve tracks on radiate/dissolve are richer and more expansive. They dig deeper into the soul and sound fully fleshed out. The reason for this seems to be in the process of making the record. In stark contrast to their previous recording sessions, they set no time limits deciding instead to let the songs become what they are.
Radiate/dissolve opens with “The Brightest Stars,” a slow trotting country and western base with a spacey echo blowing through it like a an intermittent breeze. It brought me back to quieter moments of Radiohead’s OK Computer, both musically and lyrically as frontman Chris Koza sings is a wispy falsetto “the brightest stars/are set in the /bleakest nights.” The pace picks up nicely next on the sweeping “Host” with its backing vocals courtesy of Linnea Mohn, and swells of brass.
Later the band returns to darker recesses of human emotion on the ghostly rocker “Bury You’re Heart” and then switch course to the beautifully catchy country western balladry of “Loom” which again plays in the brass and backing vocals which give such richness to Rogue Valley’s sound. This also happens on the Ryan Adams-esque rocker “Breathe” and the menacingly good “Cold Windows.”
Rogue Valley is a great example of what it takes to be a band these days. By these days I mean the era of the Internet and home recording tools which can make virtually anyone into a musician. But Rogue Valley has gone about making their music organically and one hears the difference immediately on radiate/dissolve. Its twelve tracks are handcrafted, forged and hard won. It may have taken six years to make but it was definitely worth the wait.
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