By: Chase Sewell
Spin this disc for the first time and it's clear "she's gone across the border, man." And no, your CD isn't skipping; the strategic glitches are part of the magic. Be it math rock, indie rock or experimental rock, by trying to pigeonhole this band into tidy little genres you end up putting the pin in the butterfly instead of just letting it fly free. Though the music is certainly elusive to define, trying to locate influences from their origin or tracing a clear direction from their previous work will leave you empty handed.
Minus the Bear's third full-length release, Planet of Ice (Suicide Squeeze), marks another stroll down creativity lane for this rocking Seattle 5-piece. With most every song cruising between stylistic composition and pure emotion, it makes for a hell of an album that intelligently focuses a blend of seriousness with sonic playfulness. In one stride, the songs here can seamlessly traverse from beautiful melodies to a groove-infested chorus without sounding misplaced. Unique time signatures never sound forced and are smoothly accompanied by the calm yet powerful nature of Jake Snider's vocals.
In the same vein of previous albums, Planet of Ice manages to give birth to songs that have an atmospheric vibe to them, while simultaneously preventing the listener from falling into a hypnotic daze. Melodic textures are original, abundant and consistently placed, with equal musicianship apparent in every member. Minus the Bear's trademark sound, among other factors, is made possible by the impressive guitar work of Dave Knudson - thanks to a fair amount of finger-tapping and his array of Line 6 DL-4s that deliver an onslaught of delays like a Delta flight controller.
Throughout this album there are undeniable pop elements (gasp!). Despite a usually unwelcome characteristic, these guys become a prime exception by perfecting the science of "listenable" progressive music. The sounds of disguised simplicity, after a few listens, begin to unwind and reveal an artful complexity. Lyrics you were just hearing soon become lyrics you are feeling. And as there appears to be no clear target audience in mind, since their fluid sound has the potential to draw in a diverse fan base. Recently enjoying exposure at festivals like Langerado and soon Bonnaroo 2008, the band's future looks mighty promising.
Fan discomfort with Minus the Bear is usually expressed through arguments about the better album or changes in the direction of their style. Even so, there is always a complaints department, and concerning Planet of Ice, one occasionally hears about the "over-production" of the recording or the straightforward nature of Snider's singing. While I believe these qualities actually strengthen rather than weaken the album, more often than not, in this case those with complaints are just trying too hard. The music echoing from these icy peeks is higher than high, but if you keep your head bobbing and your heart throbbing, you won't need wings to fly.
JamBase | Frozen Reaches
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