13 November 2008

REVIEW: Days Between Stations (s/t debut)

So a day or three ago I mentioned that I’d gotten in a batch of discs to listen to and review. I’m still working my way through them, but wanted to take a few moments to talk about one which has gotten quite a little bit of play here the past few days.

The band is Days Between Stations, and I am currently on what must be my tenth or twelfth listen to their self titled debut release. I’m not sure what keeps me coming back to it, and I’ll be honest…I’m not sure I want to dig that deep. One never (well, not never, but perhaps shouldn’t) questions how a magician performs their feats of illusion and prestidigitation, and I think there’s a little bit of that magic sprinkled throughout this album.

Days Between Stations is primarily the creation of Sepano Samzaden and Oscar Fuentes Bills, with a rotating cast of musicians that includes horn players, various guitarists and bassists employing a variety of instruments and styles, and vocalists mostly providing wordless vocalese in a manner that makes the voice more an instrument than an agent of lyrical delivery. Musically…wow. There are so many elements that come into play here that it is a bit difficult to point out specifics. I’ll give you a list of bands I hear in their music:

The Cure

Pink Floyd


Perhaps a touch of Godspeed You ! Black Emperor

A bit of a current fave, The Ascent of Everest

There’s a constant sadness/sombreness pervading most musical nooks and crannies in much the same way Pink Floyd’s best material evoked a detached sense of alienation and loss, tempered with a bit of the glistening darkness that Robert Smith’s best work with the Cure shows. The songs are lengthy…the album opens with a 13-minute opus titled “Requiem for the Living” and closes with a 4-part 22-minute epic under the aegis “Laudanum.” Those titles, more than anything, should give you an adequate idea what kind of musical waters we are exploring. I love the band’s diverse use of keyboard sounds…ornate, spiritual organ tones create pillars of sound, around which synth tones (including some very nice sounding Moog patches done on digital synth) wind and hum and buzz. “Either/Or” is a great example of this, with female vocals out of the Claire Torrey/”Great Gig in the Sky” school giving way to some of the fattest sweeping Moog tones I have heard in quite some time.

I’m going to suggest skipping track 5, “Radio Song.” It’s a pleasant enough track, but it is so different from the rest of the album that it stands out in a way that is far from positive. Gone are the mellow, sustained synth lines, the bluesy Gilmour/Latimer-esque guitar chords and bent notes. Replacing them is a jaunty digital synth line and a beat that could only be described as perky. It’s probably a fine enough track, but sandwiched between “How to Seduce a Ghost” and the closing double shot of “Intermission 2”/”Laudanum,” it simply doesn’t work at all.

(EDIT: OK, I am still going to say skip track 5. But I will add this...I absolutely love the horns on this song, which take me right back to the Byrds and Hugh Masekela and "So You Want to be a Rock & Roll Star." So yes, there is certainly some good stuff in the track. But I still think it stands out in a not-quite-positive way.)

But that’s a small quibble. When you have songs as solid as “Laudanum” and “Requiem for the Living,” filled chock-a-block with impressively restrained playing allowing for solos and breaks to feel even more passionate and powerful as a result of that restraint, you have a recipe for musical success. I am even more impressed that this is their debut release…it’s almost frightening to consider what their second album can do to surpass this.

Highly recommended. And I don’t say that lightly.

Days Between StationsDays Between Stations

1) Requiem for the Living

2) Either/Or

3) Intermission 1

4) How to Seduce a Ghost

5) Radio Song

6) Intermission 2

7) Laudanum:
a: A Long Goodbye

b: Every One Is Here But You

c: Nowhere

d: The Wake

Sepand Samzadeh: lead guitars, synthesizers

Oscar Fuentes: keyboards, synthesizers

Jon Mattox: drums and percussion

Jeremy Castillo: guitar

Jeffrey Samzadeh: vocals

Hollie: vocals

Vivi Rama: bass

Jason Hemmens: tenor sax

Sean Erick: trumpet

Kevin Williams: trombone

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