Though we loathe admitting it, all music fans (even rabid ones) go through dry periods. We turn to our comfort playlist, full of the songs we crank on every road trip. It’s not that we don’t want to discover new favourites, but after working long shifts or commuting on a fragrant TTC bus, the thought doesn’t occur to us. The old Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails discs in a constant state of readiness beside the sound system have been smugly mocking the rest of my collection for weeks. Total music lockdown. How do you break out when “Head Like a Hole” feels so good on the open sore of a nightmarish work experience?
You can’t always break out of a dry spell on your own. Sometimes it takes a trusted friend to send you an Mp3, as opposed to a chain email which may lead to a loveless, shame-filled life if not forwarded within seven minutes. Other times, new music falls into your lap by sheer kismet. It was by the latter that the album Circadian by Toronto group 5th Projekt came to me.
When it comes to female singers, I have a bias for power vocals like Janis Joplin and the more haunting quality of the Three Sara(h)s of CAN-rock (McLachlan, Slean, Harmer) over slick Aguilera scales. If you’re also likely to reach for Portishead from time to time, there’s a strong possibility that you will be drawn to the powerful fragility of Tara Rice’s vocals. On the second track “Oblivion” her voice soars above an equally potent instrumental atmosphere. The rhythmic pulses of “Madness” and the surprisingly uplifting melodic turn in “Broken Like This” further showcase the entire band’s range and solid musicianship. The strictly instrumental tracks work better on an album or performance basis than as standalones, which is often the case in mixed albums; let’s face it, a song that incorporates human vocals is going to have an unfair emotional advantage when it comes to a an immediate connection with the listener.
Overall the combination of both progressive and classic instrumentation on Circadian stands up to repeated listens – a world where atmospheric guitar sounds meld with tribal drums, keys, electronics and skilled vocals. It’s clear that 5th Projekt takes pride in their product from composition to mixing and even the artistic metal packaging of the disc.
As an aside, while researching the band I came across a review that criticized the musicianship for being “too good” and therefore pretentious. I feel compelled to comment on the frequent connection critics make between skill and pretension. I fully agree great works of music have come from people who couldn’t read a note and raw simplicity can be beautiful, but that doesn’t mean that having a high degree of musical ability is a bad thing; an inner drive to challenge oneself is not synonymous with conceit. In fact it often signals the opposite. Every talented musician I have met has been humble enough to believe there were many things upon which they could improve. On the other hand, it’s hard to take accusations of pretension seriously from a segment of society that uses phrases like “it was a s’amuse bouche for the auditory senses” with a straight face. If I ever use “s’amuse bouche” with sincerity please riddle my hard drive with bullets.
And now an open letter to Tool drummer Danny Carey:
I can’t listen to you anymore because you are good at what you do. I hope you understand.
P.S. Might I suggest more hand claps?
By: Amanda Terfloth