Threefifty - Gently Among the Coals
Threefifty’s latest album Gently Among the Coals represents a quantum artistic breakthrough for this New York based band. Each of the eight musicians comprising the band’s lineup are integral to Threefifty’s ability to stretch and redefine the boundaries of their sound – this vast command over their sonic palate affords them a degree of flexibility few bands and artists are fortunate enough to ever enjoy. Even with the luxuries of studios, like multiple takes and mixing, Threefifty’s uncluttered blend of many disparate elements is admirable. These compositions never impose themselves on the listener without offering equal parts physical and mental provocation in return. The songwriting and performances depend much on the guitar, but Threefifty show themselves quite willing to dispense with the instrument when occasion calls. Gently Among the Coals comes off as a career defining effort thus far and sets the bar high for anything the band does from this point forward.
“Crossing State Lines” is, arguably, the closest thing to a straight rock track on Gently Among the Coals and it does nothing entirely by the book. It does follow the template of orchestrating things for dynamic effect, but that is a move far from the providence of rock music alone. The swirling, massing guitars have an alternating soothing and hypnotic effect. It doesn’t prepare listeners for the turn the band takes on the second song “Allegiance”. This track is an aching, almost baroquely staged number that nevertheless rings with utter sincerity. The elegance of the arrangement and band’s performance may obscure the fine words, but vocalist Leon Guerrero imbues the lyrics with enormous sensitivity. “Unanchored” definitely has a pained air, but the melodic sway it achieves redeems any of its dark atmosphere. There’s a deliberateness to the performance that’s notable – such an approach, typically, bleeds much of the life out of an outing, but this number gives off great warmth despite its mood.
Electric guitar and electronic music come together for great effect on “Until Our Hearts Give Out”. It’s one of the album’s most effervescent instrumental numbers and bubbles over with a number of tasty melodies. The band’s folky inclinations come to the fore in a very lyrical fashion on the song “You Are Going the Right Way”. It has a lush beauty capable of immediately entrancing listeners. “Fields” is another of the album’s more vividly rendered tunes. It starts off in a muted, atmospheric fashion and the intensity slowly climbs. It is largely instrumental and ends in a particularly memorable way musically, but there are some key vocals heard in the song’s second half. The direct and eloquent piano playing opening “Their Place at the Table” is soon joined by keyboard and bass guitar contributions. Violin comes in and takes over the top line melody with great results. It ends with a hard hitting conclusion. The finale “Freedman” takes a final gamble on a fearless album. Threefifty puts this track together around an evocative electronic setting and takes some surprising turns building Gently Among the Coals to an impactful climax.