Reviews

Dark Light Daybreak

Author: Ian Anderson
12/04/2006 | Slivermagazine.com | www.slivermagazine.com | Feature
Andy LeMaster is extraordinarily talented, in case you didn't know. Dark Light Daybreak is a beautiful and magical album. Masterfully produced and engineered, the album is sonically seductive and LeMaster's vocal work shows a lot of growth and maturity since the band's last release Fall Back Open.

Lyrically, LeMaster has grown as a writer and has begun to take more liberties with his writing - working more with allegory rather than literal context and painting far more vivid pictures than in the past. His vocal lines and lyrical rhythm function as if they were another instrument. They blend well within the context of each song and carry the melody softly over the already delicate songs. Choruses of LeMasters frequently back up the melody with epic "oos" and "ohs," only adding to the already dreamy feel of the record.

At times, LeMaster's slow swagger begins to sound a bit like Thom Yorke, which isn't really a bad thing, but the comparison exists - namely "Nothing In Our Way," which could seamlessly fit into Radiohead's Ok Computer-era catalog.

But other than that single track, LeMaster's reedy vocals are distinctive beyond reproach. If there is one thing to be said about Now It's Overhead, it is that they are doing something that no one else is. With strangely moving beats backing overwhelmingly eerie droning guitars and somewhat ambient synth and vocal production, they stand out amongst the usual Saddle Creek crowd, separated by their approach to writing asymmetric songs and uncommon melodies.

And to be honest, I don't know what Pitchfork is talking about: this record has nothing to do with melodrama, Conor Oberst or U2 and the Edge. Just because something is dramatic and interesting doesn't make it overly dramatic - zing!

Dark Light Daybreak is a uniquely powerful record rich with vast layers and dark, cavernous corners; it has a greater amount of depth than is easily discernable at first listen. This is a record meant for the long haul and only grows in quality as it ages.

Much of this can be attributed to the band's evolution from a mainly studio project to a live act, which took place during the recording process and while finally getting on their feet touring after the release of Fall Back Open.

"I explored a different direction from the beginning with Dark Light Daybreak," LeMaster said. "We became more of a live band during the touring in support of our last album. Playing live brought out a more aggressive side of our sound."

This aggressive side of LeMaster best manifested itself in "Walls," arguably the best track on the record and a high-energy rocker that hasn't been seen from Now It's Overhead before. With the main theme of "You built the walls that block your way / Hey kid you're in over your head," the song takes a surprisingly antagonistic tone. I really dig it when LeMaster Hulks up and shows off that he's got an attitude under those golden locks and that gentle demeanor; it adds a new dimension to the project that I hope he embraces in the future.

Furthermore, the communal creativity really paid off. Clay Leverett's drumming is well placed and mixes well with the artificial drums LeMaster likes to throw in from time to time. Leverett uses his toms not as just auxiliary percussion, but rather as a main focus to keep the songs driving, but not overbearing. Guitar player Brad Register and bass player Curtis Brown don't stand out in the sense that I stop and think about what they are doing, but that isn't necessarily their job. They provide support for LeMaster's ideas and even play kazoos at one point (see "Night Vision"). Azure Ray's Maria Taylor also makes a few appearances to add that extra something.

"I set out to explore that aggressive sound more on this album by writing and arranging more with the entire band in the room together," LeMaster said. "And this led to different choices lyrically as well. I see this album as having it's own distinct personality. It's more confrontational and bristling both sonically and thematically."

This distinct personality is what makes this record so compelling and, well, so damn good. Inspired by life experience, Dark Light Daybreak hits the mark in the progression of band with much to follow.


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