Gregor Samsa


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Gregor Samsa, the Richmond, VA, band led by Champ Bennett, not the earlier outfit from Illinois also named after Franz Kafka's most famous character, has made two EPs and a split CD with Red Sparowes during its stop-and-start five-year existence, but 55:12 (which actually runs about 50 and a half minutes) is its first full-length album. The extra time helps a lot, since this is a group that needs to stretch out. The disc has eight tracks, four of which run over seven minutes each. The longest, "Even Numbers," which is more than ten minutes long, is typical, with a slow start that takes up the first two minutes or so, then a faster, more built-up section that lasts less than a minute before subsiding, with the ethereal vocals of Bennett and Nikki King not beginning until about four and a half minutes in. Although there are lyrics to the songs, the singing is only another part of the overall sound, not a focus of the arrangements. So, as King intones, "How long 'til I fall in love?" over and over during "These Points Balance," it never seems as though the question has much weight for her. Gregor Samsa is more about mood than meaning, and at this extended length, the band gets a chance to set that mood definitively, at a dreamy, draggy pace that would make the Cowboy Junkies seem lively and would come in a close second to Brian Eno in the ambient music sweepstakes.

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