Woven

8 Bit Monk

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For the full-length 8 Bit Monk, L.A.'s Woven ups the groove and removes much of the subtlety it displayed on Eprime, its brief 2001 debut. While that recording often resembled a weirdly cool collaboration between Deftones and Aphex Twin's more ambient side, this latest effort relies too much on convention, and ends up stifling the energy created by its dynamic six-person lineup. The group features a full complement of synths and electronic devices, but also utilizes traditional instrumentation like guitars, bass, and drums. None of the instrumentation -- analog or digital -- is ever safe from Woven's quest for re-invention. But while the songcraft is strong throughout 8 Bit Monk, that becomes part of the problem -- a collective such as this might do well to lock traditional song structure in the same closet it does the concept of a conventional rock-band lineup. Maybe it's pressure from the label, or a nod to the mainstream, but 8 Bit Monk tends to meander in Woven's self-created safe zone between electronic and alt-rock, instead of making something happen there. It builds the foundation for a wonderful structure, but falls asleep at the job site. This is disappointing, because there's a lot to like in the sonic tapestry that is Woven. Scattering, processed percussion mixes with plucked acoustic guitar ("Trepanation"), and a glowering bassline and grating electric guitar imbue "I Want You Yesterday" with anxious tension. But while Jonathan Burkes' vocal chords are certainly malleable, shifting effortlessly from pleading urgency to harder-edged intensity, over ten songs he becomes Woven's most apparent link to what's been done, and dilutes its potential to make something truly new.

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