Friday, May 5, 2017

Threefifty - Gently Among the Coals

Threefifty - Gently Among the Coals 

The title alone tells some of the story. Gently Among the Coals is an understated image for an album bringing together strong musical and literary qualities in often surprising and dramatic ways. Threefifty has been working for some years now and has acquired a sterling reputation for their consistently high quality of achievement but, unlike many older and younger bands alike, Threefifty have proven rarely content for staying in one artistic place for very long. Gently Among the Clouds brings together the band’s penchant for classical composition together with a folk and slightly baroque sensibility. The sound, approach, and final result is singular. Some might say the world doesn’t need any more songs and the last half century plus flood of all manner of music might give the same impression to those otherwise uninformed. The bar has simply never been set high enough. Bands like Threefifty, however, are clearly aspiring to fare able to withstand posterity’s glare and succeed in doing so.  

Gently Among the Coals never takes shortcuts. The opener “Crossing State Lines” could have been much more traditional fare, but Threefifty thankfully hears the guitar in a much different way than many old and young bands alike. The instrument is recorded with great intimacy throughout the course of the album’s twelve songs, but the common theme in its presentation is that it takes on an orchestral role. The seeming chorus of guitars on the first song is arranged to perfection but still achieve recognizable effects. “Allegiance” will impress a lot of people. The song communicates with great simplicity, but likewise has a layered arrangement that will draw listeners in from the start. It is one of the few lyrical numbers on Gently Among the Coals and Threefifty makes the effort count by utilizing a superb vocal performance bringing the fine lyrics fully to life. Another musical high point comes with the song “Andromeda”. It’s another example of how this band inventively uses guitar in ways that few other bands would dare attempt, but despite the daring they show, Threefifty never loses the melodic plot. Their melodies are restless, forever evolving, sometime flinty or cracked, but it remains one of the band’s chief pursuits in nearly every song. 

Few songs on Gently Among the Coals better illustrate that quality than “Until Our Hearts Give Out”. Threefifty brings different styles together with a less than heavy hand and the conscientious artistry they show fusing electric guitar work with an electronica backing succeeds, in no small part, thanks to understatement. “The Door”, with lyrics by Vicki Kennelly Stock, has a disquieting effect on the listener thanks to its penchant for darker sounds, but there’s still the same attention to melodic detail setting it apart from the band’s peers and the expert way the band steers through a variety of textural changes should be admired. “More” features contributions from electronic performer and producer Daedelus, but it bears all the marks of Threefifty’s constant upending of expectations. They employ traditional instruments in unusual ways and the gripping backbeat frequently coming out of the mix will surely capture listeners’ attention. Threefifty’s latest release Gently Among the Coals is a new benchmark in an already impressive career.  


Joshua Stryde

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