Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The InBetweens, Out on a Limb

The InBetweens – a trio of Mike Gamble on guitar and electronics, Noah Jarrett on bass and Conor Elmes on drums and percussion - celebrated their 10th anniversary in New York and as a working unit, having formed a bond at the New England Conservatory, last fall by recording their fourth studio album Out on a Limb.  As someone who’s followed them pretty much since day one, it’s their strongest artistic statement yet.  Out on a Limb picks up on the melodic and harmonic territory they started exploring on their last record, Quantum Cowboy, and runs with it, with even more concise, punchy, catchy songs. 

The InBetweens have always been masters at teasing out unexpected grooves and building to a crunching intensity.  This quality is still evident, the sometimes bludgeoning impact of the early years lathed and burnished to a shining mace.  This is particularly evident on the one/two punch of Noah Jarrett-written pieces midway through the record.  “Releasing Posture”, which starts with a riotous bass intro and shifts through a series of firework sculptures, tiny perfectly deployed explosions, bass tumbling into drums, shooting out lines of light from the guitar; the overarching form becoming apparent even as it’s plenty of fun getting lost between the fire and the smoke.  That song melts into “Brighter” which is a weighty, righteously grimy mid-tempo rocker that glows with an unlikely, magical symbiosis between players, everything in its right place with tempo shifts never feeling showy or forced, full of drama but never plastic.

Texture, always a consideration, is sharper here too.  “Holy Waters” and “Abeyance”, both written by Mike Gamble, have a moody sensuousness, never rushing.  Conor Elmes’ drumming, great throughout, particularly shines on the former, muffled kick and tom creating a rocky landscape punctuated by flashes of cymbal – the drums tell the entire story and the guitar and bass adds definition and specificity.  The latter is some of the most gorgeous guitar playing I’ve heard from Gamble, less stripped down than sharpened, bringing to bear the devotional music he plays with Brooklyn Qawwali Party and the Thompson and Jansch influences that have been creeping into his playing in the last few years and turning it into something new and fascinating.

This  record has been a constant companion the last few weeks since I received the promo and I see it soundtracking my summer and me coming back to it for years on end.  To another ten, twenty, thirty years.


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