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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Pilotdrift
Water Sphere
Good Records

Rating: 9/10 ?


December 14, 2005
For the safety of myself and for those around me, I am wearing a helmet while I review this record.

In the tradition of modern wonders such as Ok Computer, The Soft Bulletin, and The Wall, Pilotdrift has knelt at the altar of those formidable albums, not as a worshipper but as a contender, molding some of the most ambitious moments I have ever heard put to tape. The contents contained within Water Sphere are breathtakingly bold and executed with a meticulous precision not found in even the most over-the-top indie rock wankery.

Aside from having one of the most remarkable opening songs on an album with "Caught in my Trap," Water Sphere, as a whole, is an epic journey through time and space. It is an incalculable production with orchestral movie scores, vaudeville-style singing, show stopping numbers and high scale post-rock guitar songs that all work through literary versus running the gamut from sci-fi fantasy to epic stories of sea-bound journeymen. It would be hard for even the most hard-headed indie rock elitist not to find something to like about Water Sphere, even as ideas are plagued by overzealous concepts that take Broadway-like numbers and vamp them up into highly conceptual overachievements and mind-spinning symphonic fantasies. In my own defense, a musical composition such as Water Sphere is hard to describe in the silence of text, without the benefit of sound, but please indulge me.

As mentioned before, "Caught in my Trap" is nothing short of brilliant song writing. Imagine, if you would, the excessively enthusiastic instrumental make-up of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the intricate, symphonic programming of the Flaming Lips, and you begin to conjure the grandiose spectacle that begins Water Sphere's descent to the mind-blowing depths of sound. The term "high-art" is an understatement when breaking down the song's multi-part outline. Even as Pilotdrift successfully flirt with everything from chamber-pop to movie soundtracks to plain old and rock'n roll, the payoff that ends the song, Slint style, is truly worth the ride. Guitars chug like Spiderland's post-rock revolution as blurbs of piano and other unforeseen instrumentation overlap alongside the crunch of the guitars.

"Jekyll and Hyde Suite," the album's fifth track, lays the groundwork for a more theatrical feel and winds up becoming the album's novelty song. The ideas presented are brilliant on paper, but the song's five distinguishable movements aren't cohesive enough for multiple spins, the lack of proper blending causing a slight irritation due to its disorder. However, the last four minutes of the song (which clocks in at just under ten minutes) are some of the most chilling moments I have ever heard from a modern indie rock outfit. It makes the Polyphonic Spree sound like Ween.

"Bublecraft", "Passenger Seat", and "Rings of Symbols" all excellently combine enormous choruses and beautiful instrumentation that dare to question what is perceived as standard music arrangements, but it is the album's closer that is likely to drop jaws and astonish the unsuspecting. "So Long" takes the movie score to another level, adding Kelly Carr's beautiful voice and a percussive arrangement that sounds as if it were plucked from a battle sequence during Lord of the Rings. The song shows its charm when the acoustic guitar begins for a more stable rock outline constituted by the jagged Radiohead-esque drumbeat. The crunch of the guitars return, toward the end, but it is the Bi-State Children's Choir that steals the show by making the song a majestic masterpiece before a clattering drum beat and dizzy percussion signals the track's demise.

Signing to Good Records after catching the attention of label owner Tim Delaughter, of The Polyphonic Spree, Pilotdrift has built somewhat of a cult following as an opening act, but for the most part the Texarkana five-piece has unfortunately gone largely unnoticed. Delaughter has recently become a sort of caretaker for the band and his timing couldn't be better, as Pilotdrift have produced a sophomore release that can easily be labeled "astonishing." Indeed, Water Sphere would appear to have broken the mold on epic music making, and it is remarkable for the subtleties as much as the grand ideas that make it such a monumental achievement.

Water Sphere is a galactic record that pushes the boundaries of modern music while remaining completely palpable and primed for mass consumption, a collection of songs like a weapon for those of us ready to take up sonic arms in a crusade against the overwhelming glut of mass-produced pop that is choking the life out of music. Some will inevitably say that Pilotdrift's second album is over-ripe and laden with too much confusion, but a simple stroll under its graces will leave the appreciative listener with an ear-to-ear smile. With nothing on one's mind but sincere decencies and a willingness to bask in its aquatic circle, Water Sphere reveals itself as an album of extraordinary pace, execution, and incredible musicianship that has exceeded any expectations - a truly remarkable album.

Reviewed by Mark Taylor
A senior LAS staff writer, Mark Taylor is a 29 year old father of a 5 year old son and husband to a wife of 6 years, living the simple life in a small suburb of Charlotte, NC.

See other reviews by Mark Taylor

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