Crime in Choir's The Hoop serves up more of the band's fascinating instrumental music, which draws from math rock, prog, pop, and jazz influences. However, this cut-and-dried description doesn't do justice to the power of Crime in Choir's music, which is aggressive and beautiful, fast-moving but hypnotic, and evocative and tightly wound at the same time. Crime in Choir's fondness for intricate keyboards definitely has its roots in prog rock, but in the band's hands, they give the music its own uniquely dark sparkle. Delivering on the promise of their self-titled debut, the amount of passion and precision the band packs into each track of The Hoop is truly awe inspiring. "Strong Beautiful Suspicious Horse" might be the first track, but with its commanding keyboard arpeggios, brass, and swift melodic and rhythmic shifts, it gets The Hoop off to an already climactic-sounding start. Indeed, the album is virtually a 33-minute peak. Being such a densely packed album, The Hoop challenges listeners to be as intensely focused as the music is. This is a good thing, for the most part, but keeping up with the album's twists and turns can be more than a little tasking. Fortunately, though, The Hoop's somewhat demanding intensity is also intensely rewarding: though Crime in Choir's pieces feature lots of different, shifting ideas and parts, the band's music never feels abrupt or slapped together. Pieces such as "Magnetotail," which pairs a crunchy drum loop with dreamy, Durutti Column-like guitars and even dreamier keyboards, sound longer than they actually are, but that's a compliment; Crime in Choir know how to make the most of pacing, arrangements, and melodies, and The Hoop's tracks are short enough that playing them again soon to catch any missed details is a delight instead of a chore. While some of Crime in Choir's influences hark back to the '70s, the band's music doesn't sound tied to any particular place or time, adding to its evocative qualities. While it sounds fresh, the album doesn't sound "new"; indeed, one of the best things about The Hoop is its oddly nostalgic feel, particularly on "Vene Qua," a brisk, strangely affecting waltz that doesn't sacrifice any of the band's power for its poignancy. "Night Bandit" is another unusually elegant and kinetic track, with layers of guitars, pianos, and a shuffling beat that blur and borrow from different styles and ages. Even the full-on rock of "Hot Slant" and the indie leanings of "Didomonico" have a moodiness and timelessness that make them more interesting than mere outbursts or genre exercises. Even though it's hard to believe that The Hoop is just over a half-hour long, the album is ample proof that Crime in Choir do more in 33 minutes than many other experimental instrumental bands accomplish in twice that amount of time.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares