Continental

Four-Letter Words

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AllMusic Review by

Continental's sophomore release Four-Letter Words, belying the curses of its title, is a measured, languid, and infinitely patient collection of state-of-the-scene, turn-of-the-century Californian instrumental rock. Since the term post-rock would be outdated by the time of this release, we won't be using it here, although the progenitors of this sound (basically most of the entire late-'90s output of Thrill Jockey or Constellation Records) have been linked to it. While bands of the Chicago (Tortoise) or Montreal (Do Make Say Think) instrumental rock schools share the same template, Continental is decidedly breezier, with less tension in its arrangements, and their music falls more in the West Coast flavor of similar-minded contemporaries like Jet Black Crayon, the Rum Diary, and the Len Brown Society. Four-Letter Words finds these five talented San Francisco Bay Area lads downshifting a bit from the polyrythmic rush of their debut, and showcasing an equally formidable talent at something most musicians rarely touch on: restraint. The result is a less-is-more aesthetic, and the songs are colored by what they don't play: flashy guitar solos, reckless drum fills, or unnecessary dynamics. Instead, via brushed or understated drums (occasionally augmented by electronic rhythms and/or a second drummer) and a gentle syncopation with clean guitar lines, fluid bass, and touches of keys, they are content to carry the listener off on a cloud, smoothly navigating the bi-ways of the psyche through moods that never hit extreme highs or lows, gently drifting through sunny skies and swaying palms, evoking summery days with no particular place to go, and the effect is one of transcendence and ultimately peace. Most of the songs reflect this ethos, but it is the penultimate two-part finale "The Regrettable Consequences of Our Well-Worn Blinders" that shows the band branching off into a welcome expansiveness, a shadow of things to come. And it is the title of the longest song, the sweeping, ten-minute saga "Pacific Sprawl," that best sums up the Continental experience.

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