Ether Switch - Elegy
Some things just drive a listener crazy. Personally, I have a lot of pet peeves, especially in the vocal department: over-driven vocals and whispering being two of my biggest annoyances. Now, I for one feel that a vocalist's voice does not need to hit every note because, really, musical expression does not require technical perfection (our albums aren't given to the likes of Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, anyway). Some of the biggest names from the past and even the present have those hit-or-miss voices: Bob Dylan, Billy Corgan, and Conor O'berst, to name a short few. However, by no means can anyone simply pick up a microphone and become a star; the best singers have direction and articulation, despite their unorthodox deliveries.
So the question is begged, what does all this have to do with Ether Switch's new album, Elegy? Before getting to any disparaging remarks, though, a proper introduction should be stated. Ether Switch is an indie rock band from the New York City metropolitan area and is comprised of vocalist and guitarist Doug Bleek, who also programs electronic melodies, and Ed Castillo, who plays drums and sequences the electronics. There are some interesting things going on in their sound: swirling electronics, escalating guitar riffs, and walls of layered sound showcase their musical inventiveness and meticulousness. But, taking me back to my over-winded introduction, these boons are obscured by Bleek's monotonous vocals, which completely dominate (and overshadow the best qualities of) their sound. When the vocals are taken away, like in "Hey Old Faces," there are layers of guitar and nuanced sounds that make their music catchy and intriguing, but when the singing is integrated all the former triumphs are too distanced to enjoy.
The best (and concurrently worst) example of this is in "Machiavelli Martyr" where there is a slew of droning vocals that only change tone with Trust Company-esque whispers or a conversational type of singing. As the singer of Ether Switch, Bleek truly controls where this band is going. It is very easy to sift through thousands of indie bands, especially in the New York area, and if the first thing someone hears by Ether Switch is "Machiavelli Martyr," getting passed up will become a common trend to a band that does, actually, have potential, though often hidden, talent.
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on 2008-03-05 kev_stev Said:
Very nicely written. The album did get better as it progressed, but a bad start never bode wells for a review. As I said, I think they have potential, it's just the lyrically monotony wards off future listens. Unless you're really devoted to the band and can find a deeper meaning within the music, or a connection with the execution of the vocals, I don't feel this album is enjoyable. Also, I had no lyrics to read along with, so maybe I didn't get the full effect of it all, but I'm feeling pretty confident about my score.
on 2008-03-05 roborotic Said:
I'll admit that upon first listening to Elegy, the vocals were bothersome at points (not so much the voice itself, but the lack of control), but nothing that detracted from the music itself. The monotony is seemingly intentional (a la Paul Banks) and befitting for the musical style. I'll agree with you in that, save for "Square One", the opening tracks of Elegy aren't so strong. The album starts off kind of shaky, but really picks up. "Release, Realize, Revert" is a great tune, as is "Japanese Candy". People somehow find enjoyment in Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Alec Ounsworth isn't winning American Idol any time soon. I guess one of the album's most redeeming qualities lies in the words themselves, not necessarily how they're being sung. Lyrically, Elegy says a lot, to the point where I would overlook some imperfections in the vocals (and I find the music pretty enjoyable) in order to really listen. At its worst, Elegy serves as a wonderful example of what Ether Switch is capable of. I think they're one of the most talented bands in the NYC underground right now, and would love to see what happens as they continue to mature as musicians. 2/5 is a little harsh, 3.5/5 for me.