|Electric Blood: Unknown Component, May 11 at Circle Tap|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Written by Jeff Ignatius|
|Wednesday, 08 May 2013 13:36|
When I last wrote about Unknown Component, the one-man DIY project of the prolific Keith Lynch, I focused on one song and compared his voice favorably to Kurt Cobain’s.
Five years – and at least five recordings – later, I’m faced with his 2012 album Blood V. Electricity, and his growth is impressive and, frankly, startling. The Iowa-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer will be performing at Circle Tap on May 11, and the talent I saw before is now mature, the potential is realized, and the flashes of brilliance have been transformed into a consistently alluring and engaging whole. (And while his singing still has a whine, the edge has been sanded off, banishing all thoughts of Cobain.)
The album is on the one hand atmospheric and spacious and on the other concrete and tangible, finding a happy balance between misty textures and solid frames, and forging a successful, alchemical marriage of synthetic and organic instrumental sounds.
That tack is established at the outset, with the introductory “Intuition”: meaty melodies patiently developed through piano, keyboards, and guitar, with simple rhythm guitar as a balance and overlapping vocals on top. “Nowhere Is Alone” follows with a bit of a Leonard Cohen vibe, a greater emphasis on the guitar and voice, and percussion used sparely as punctuation.
This is an auspicious start, but it merely hints at what Lynch pulls off on Blood V. Electricity. The three minutes of “Gypsies of the Apocalypse” comprise aggressive, crunchy electronic percussion, building guitar rock, and an outro that slowly lets the tension evaporate. The straightforward if unconventional structure is perfectly austere – nothing more than the song needs and nothing less, the ideal vehicle for its rise and fall.
This encapsulates the most striking aspect of Blood V. Electricity: Nothing sounds tossed off, yet nothing sounds over-thought, either. The album’s title is an apt summation of the push-and-pull between its rock-and-roll blood and its synthesizer electricity – except that Lynch pairs them so seamlessly.
Even in its most elemental guitar rock – the gorgeously catchy and bright “Moral Vultures” – Lynch builds layers of sounds and melodies underneath, with the effect of pulling the listener deeper. On “Dust & the Shadows,” the up-tempo beat and guitar are undercut by the measured vocals and synthesizers, crafting a sturdy ambivalence. There’s no conflict in the closer “Through the Surface,” whose acoustic guitar, singing, and keyboard washes combine for a warm, enveloping send-off.
Two tracks on the back end – “Painting the Weather” and “The Invisible Line” – err on the side of being one-dimensional. The first is too light and simple, and the second feels somewhat empty with its relatively sparse instrumentation and flagged tempo.
But those complaints are mostly by comparison to the rest of Blood V. Electricity, a bracing collection of great poise – in density, arrangement, and texture.
Unknown Component will perform on Saturday, May 11, at Circle Tap (1325 West Locust Street, Davenport). The free show starts at 8 p.m.
For more information on Unknown Component, visit UnknownComponent.com.
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