Ester Drang

Rocinate

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    7
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AllMusic Review by

Ester Drang outdid themselves with their previous album, and so it should come as no surprise that the band led by Bryce Chambers forge ahead into some interesting sonic territory, particularly the ambient-cum-disco hue coloring "Come Back Alive" that is a definite, danceable curveball. Think of something David Byrne might be doing if he was still with Talking Heads and it becomes a bit clearer -- challenging, a tad "out there," but nonetheless warm and soothing. A false fade gives Rocinate a different, lush tone with surprising results. The arrangements are very nicely developed as "Valencia's Dying Dream" contains all the traits of a Coldplay cut, down to the rich melody and even the drumming of James McAlister -- quiet in parts but big when he needs to be in the chorus. The one or two mellower moments here are somewhat problematic, however, as "Grave Mistake"'s melancholia brings to mind tracks the Manic Street Preachers perfected during "This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours." The group have also decided that strings should never be used sparingly but quite liberally, making another mid-tempo, relationship-centered track like "Hooker with a Heart of Gold" resemble a tepid version of Keane who started listening to jazz. One obvious highlight is the ethereal piano ballad entitled "Great Expectations" that complements the elaborate strings, the classical percussion, and angelic female harmonies. When they mix the best of both pop and lush realms, the payoff is golden, with a head-bobbing, genre-bending "Everyone Is a Victim." Ester Drang push the envelope with the ambient accents on the instrumental "Smoke and Air" that would fit better on a Moby album. Too often, Rocinate is a hair too airy or light, but Ester Drang still make nuggets like "Proustian Moments" soar.

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