Hot summer nights

Before the solstice hits, four albums drop
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  June 10, 2009

bird main

If the coming week is indicative of anything, it's that this is going to be one busy summer. Discs have been flooding into the office and there's no end in sight. In an effort to keep up, here's a collection of four reviews for albums being released before summer even officially starts.

A Bird in the Rafters is worth...

Continuing what is beginning to feel like a Ron Harrity leitmotif in this column, Bird in the Rafters this week release their debut maxi-EP (seven songs, 30 minutes), which was recorded with Harrity at his New Systems Laundry space. In "Jetlag," the disc's title track, drummer/vocalist Emily Serway implores, "get some caffeine, get some Dramamine," and that could be a prescription for the work as a whole — at times it's in want of a kick-start when Tony Manhart's guitar and Roy Ghim's bass are picking out repeating phrases that aren't quite melodic and not quite rhythmic; other times things seem to be careering completely out of control, with some flat vocals and missed harmonies.

But you get the feel this is on purpose. "Where, oh where, is the Renaissance," Manhart sings in his front-vocal turn, and his hardened edge is buffeted by Serway's breathy backing, a perfect pair to Ghim's sharp and squawky bass and Manhart's smooth and rounded guitar tone. In the opening "Old Trunks" we're again given a dichotomy, between the atonal night and the hard-charging "breaking of the day." Bird in the Rafters experiment with the pretty and the caustic, the sandpaper and the smooth. Decide for yourself if it rubs the wrong way.

Jetlag| Released by Bird in the Rafters | with Winterpills + Seymour + Computer at Sea | at SPACE Gallery, in Portland | June 13 |

Project? Seven. Phase? IV. 

Like many prog rockers before them, the Project Seven are intellectually melded with the past and the future, both — prone to fits of Latin and predictions of apocalypse. Last year, they dropped a 14-track full-length self-titled disc that not only featured "The Last War on Earth," but also a three-part tune sprinkled throughout titled "Phase I," "Phase II," and "Phase III." Fittingly, the band's new EP is titled Phase IV, and it is, indeed, a step forward.

The band, like many these days, are still prone to delicate openings that slam into heavy walls of sound, and Ian Robbins still has to find a delivery that suits him and avoid that accent like he was born in the land of metal, but there's some pretty cool songwriting here. "Cycles" is a six-minute trade-off between echo-pedal ballad and well-wrought screamo. "Rigel" opens like a Police tune, with bass and guitar locked in quick notes, but the rock vocals build to a full yell that manages to finish in a bit of falsetto. Then it speeds up sort of inexplicably into an almost totally different song — "I don't wanna wait" — at the 3:30 mark.

By the time the five-song disc finishes with the dreamy minute-long "Proximity" you're ready for the port wine-like cleansing of the palate. There's a lot to consume in not much time, and TP VII (as they like to write their name) are just getting started.

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