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Monday, September 12, 2011

Album Review: Textures - Dualism

Netherlands’ noise-niks are a band of flavors. I’m not talking BBQ beef or nacho cheese here – this is, after all, a music review (for argument’s sake, if I had to pick one, they’d be salt and vinegar.) It comes as no surprise really – I mean, they aren’t called for nothing. It was drummer Stef Brooks who suggested their moniker was a reference to the band members’ many different musical tastes and backgrounds; their composition, if you will. A result of this variety of influences is that their albums tend to flit schizophrenically from one musical flavor to another leaving us much to digest. Last year, however, just as we started believing that we had their sound finally pinned down, the news dropped that vocalist Eric Kalsbeek and keyboardist Richard Rietdijk had walked away from the band. The album release date was duly postponed and replacements were found with Daniel De Jongh (ex-) and Uri Dijk () clambered aboard to settle the rolling ship.

One year later and we get Dualism. Our first listen through reveals that their core has, unsurprisingly, become a little skewed; the flavors within have changed. It is an album that varies much to the abrasively-consuming areas that the previous album, Silhouettes, inhabited. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a sense, this is far closer to their earlier, more ambient debut, Polars. It’s more melodic than Silhouettes, cleaner, less intrusive and a whole truck-load more flamboyant. All this makes it a far more accessible album.

Instantly, you’ll notice the differences in vocal style that De Jongh has brought. I’ve always thought of him as a frontman who seems more comfortable singing than bellowing, and it comes as no surprise that, with Dualism, have gone from being that band who roar with the occasional soar, to being that band who soar with the occasional roar. De Jongh with his excellent warm tones has retained a few elements of why Kalsbeek’s cleans always drew comparison with Mike Patton but from somewhere he’s managed to bring elements of Brandon Boyd as well – of course, Dijk’s cleverly-understated atmospherics merely add to that whole arena rock sound. Of course, you’ll still find a vast array of groove and progressive elements lurking behind most tracks.

Opener “Arms Of The Sea” is wholesome, deep and has a brutal pulse that drags you in until De Jongh finds his croon and serenades you into the surf that you’ve spent the first two minutes kicking up. You’ll find a much less chaotic cadence to the music than, I for one, expected. It will catch you out if you’re hoping to find another “Awake”, because instead you’re more likely to find another “Messengers”. “Reaching Home” has an unbelievably simple, addictive riff running through it’s lead-up to the verses and in combination with De Jongh’s stunningly strong and wonderfully melodious vocal they simply own the track. It’s a definite standout and it comes as no surprise to discover it’s the album’s lead single.

As usual, there’s much to admire about guitarist Jochem Jacobs’ production. He captures the vitality of the drums whilst retaining the throb of the bass, without which tracks like “Sanguine Draws The Oath” would just seem limp. Instead, they kick like a mule with sections of Gatling gun snare and string-bending bass taking them to a whole other level. It’s like listening to covering or duelling with over the subject of who is the most “epic”. Dualism has, of course, got its weaker moments; the points where the band dip their toes into their more predictable pool of rhythms and sounds. Tracks like the metalcore-tinged “Minor Earth, Major Skies” or the poppy “Consonant Hemispheres” are a little lacking in punch and originality; they don’t seem to possess that explosive spark and, consequently, struggle to keep up with the rest of the album. However, most places you look, you’ll find a masterly performance in pacing and layering. Indeed, no finer example of this is to be found than that within “Burning The Midnight Oil” which benefits greatly from a lack of vocal. It allows the music to shine and helps you really identify and connect with the intricate piecing together of the different sections.

More important than anything here, have created an album with a heart; an album with its own identity. Close your eyes and you can feel these two mighty hands reaching down to clasp you, creating a bubble of sound, effectively causing the outside world to simply fade away. The very first time I listened to the seven-minute post-rock soundscaping of “Singularity” I became ensconced in sound; whisked away until the levels dropped off and the bubble popped. Of course, there are those who will balk at the amount of clean vocals here, the sudden proximity that this album takes to those alt-metal bands I have mentioned, as well as some of the more djenty metal bands who seem to be stealing all the headlines at the moment. It could be that this album may be looked on, in the future, as a watershed. Well, I was always partial to before Dualism but, if anything, I dig these new flavors they’ve discovered even more. Though perhaps not as much as I dig prawn cocktail flavor chips. Om, nom, nom, nom.

Also online (with samples) @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/textures-dualism

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