Just about the time that I was beginning to think that everything on the Constellation label had either orchestral flourishes or was some weird sort of free-form jazz hybrid (which I quite enjoy, don't get me wrong), along comes Sofa. Whiles it's one of the older releases on the label, it's also most definitely the most jagged and harsh in terms of sound. While Godspeed You Black Emperor lifts the listener up with huge sweeps of sound, Sofa is more likely to rifle through you with tight, sharp edged guitars and an overall gritty sound.
Like A Minor Forest was for the Thrill Jockey label, Sofa is to Constellation. While most of the other bands are more concerned with atmosphere and textures, Sofa is more visceral. Brad Todd and his baritone vocals have been compared to Ian Curtis of Joy Division many a time in reviews, and it bears noting again. The sound of the group ranges from smoother post rock-like vibes to ragged-around-the-edges, yet calculated rock that has quite a bit in common with Fugazi.
After slowly winding up and into the beginning track on the disc ("On/Off"), they manage to barrage the listener with three rather attacking tracks in a row. While the opening track has rather slow verses that build ever so slightly, the chorus' break out and go (fitting the title) and the album really takes off on the viscious second track "Ch.2.Chi." Guitars, bass and drums are all paced with the subtlety of a stabbing motion while Todd raises his vocal intensity throughout the track until he sounds like he's going to crack at the end. Although the bassline in the track "Monotone" lives up to the name, everything else about the track is frenetic and by the time the group gets to the slower pace of the fourth track "Current," it's a welcome break.
The group keeps things at that slower pace for awhile, including the slow-core dirge of "Red Lake" before they crank up things again and leap out with instruments blaring on "Comma." They keep a see-saw sort of pacing on the last couple tracks before winding down with the excellent mid-tempo "Medicine Hat." The guitar and bass interplay is just sly enough that it feels like the group is toying with you before lashing out again, but it's that percieved tension (without a release) that guides the track (and album) to completion. In the end, it's an interesting album, but one that you probably wouldn't expect from the Constellation label. Although it ends up feeling a bit long towards the second half, it's still a fairly solid release (and I probably needn't mention at this point that the packaging is great as always).