This is a group I'd been hearing about for quite some time now and I finally broke down and bought this release (which is their 3rd full-length), which is supposedly one of their best. A five-piece band out of Maine (yes, Maine), they play what I would call ambient rock with ethnic influences. Ambient rock might be a contradiction in terms, but they fill the bill pretty nicely as they sway back and forth from meandering soundscapes filled with flutes, digeridoo, and brass to almost full-on rock in the form of electric guitar and more of a standard lineup of instruments (although they still have lots of other, more ecelectic ones in place as well).
Reading the list of instruments played by the fellows on this release almost gets to be a bit of a choir after awhile (it spans over 30 items), and it includes everything from the above mentioned to congas and cowbells to shakers, keyboards, tablas, and things that I can't even pronounce (like a dholak). Over the course of 50 minutes of music, they've created a solid release that has 5 different tracks (that feel more like movements) and work a re-occuring theme into things.
The opening track of "Harvest" leads into things very slowly, with all kinds of chimes, twinkling, and treated spoken-word samples (that sound like they were phoned-in over an unsteady phone line) drifting behind a rather haunting keyboard tone and percussion that sounds like a heartbeat (and very well may be). It's kind of an eerie opening to the disc, but it all fades out and into the next track of "Omphalos," which is quite possibly the best one on the disc. After starting out slow, the track builds up with some keyboards, a rather simple guitar line and excellent tabla percussion, before horns work their way into the mix and provide some absolutely beautiful moments as they build into a sedate climax.
The final three tracks on the disc all work sort of the same theme without coming across as too repetitive. "Myrrh (Waft)" takes a more ambient, unfocused route of almost random chimes and keyboards while "Myrrh (Loop)" works itself into the loudest track (and most rockin') with some blaring guitars (that almost recall hair-band status) and horns that step together in punctuation. The last track "Myrrh (Reprise)" is sort of a combination of the two that never gets going too much, yet never drops off into noodling (and has some excellent guitar work) and works in some chant-like vocals that are never overbearing. Overall, it's a pretty darn good release and one that makes me want to hunt down more work by the group. It may drift a little bit too much for some listeners, but it's a good release overall and if you took Macha and Tortoise and locked them in a room together, it might sound something a bit like this. Maybe. Good stuff nonetheless.