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Volcano! "Beautiful Seizure"

One of the inevitabilities of putting together best-of year-end lists is that there’s always one or two albums that don’t make it on there simply because it didn’t surface until it was too late. Volcano!, a young band from Chicago, make music akin to a nervous fit of rage and are a perfect example of such an unfortunate circumstance.

Beautiful Seizure, the trio’s debut for the decidedly non-rock Leaf label is a welcome breath of fresh air and a wonderful surprise for those who thought 2005 was solely dominated by new weird America and coke snorting hipsters from Brooklyn. Time-bomb ticks and nervous vocals over livewire guitar playing push for room with startlingly beautiful passages of atmospheric ambience and quiet folk. The result is a disarmingly genuine and honest record.

Album standout “Fire Fire” begins with contemplative guitar chords and the free jazz inspired drumming of Sam Scranton. Guitarist/vocalist Aaron With, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, allows his voice to quaver and shake, slowly building along with the rest of the band. Elsewhere, the band delves into long passages of seemingly random samples, which serves to add to the sound of the album as a whole, such as on “$40,000 Plus Interest.” It would be easily to classify Volcano! as simply post-rock, and while they do share many common traits with the genre, there is a streak of restlessness that prevents that tag from sticking. Like the best rock music, Volcano! take from a variety of sources–the ambitious scope of post-rock, the anthemic thrust of OK Computer-era Radiohead, and the flailing desperation of post-hardcore, to come up with something startlingly original yet instantly familiar. “Red and White Bells” is perhaps the best articulation of what I’m talking about. At nearly nine and a half minutes, the song see’s the band veer from all possible styles and is a perfect encapsulation of their varying tendencies.

What makes Beautiful Seizure so enjoyable and good is the confidence with which Volcano! attack their material. Few bands sound this confident first time out, and an album like this only makes me more excited to hear what the band will churn out next.





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