Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tow’rs - Grey Fidelity

Tow’rs - Grey Fidelity 

This is delicate music for indelicate times. Grey Fidelity presents an unified consciousness distilled from the experiences of five musicians. Two of the five, Ryan and Gretta Miller, are the band’s primary vocal and songwriting force – one can assume that their marriage is an explanation for their shared musical chemistry, but they have talents dovetailing so neatly into each other that it suggests they are artistic kindred spirits despite any legal bonds. Their band mates are important to bringing off the album’s eleven tracks. Tow’rs’ songs are thoughtful and often quite reflective, immersed with elegance and an even ethereal slant, but they are never so blurrily defined they fail to make an impact. They are accessible and easy to engage with from the outset. Much of this is attributable to the powerful interplay between the Miller’s vocals, but there isn’t a single unfinished part of the band’s presentation.  

The fade-in beginning the album is our first clue that we are in for something special. It’s a relatively audacious move and the remainder of the opener, “Girl in Calico”, follows the same trajectory. This isn’t a song with a clear shape. Instead, its existence seems based on the ability it has to maintain its swirl – the confluence of keyboard color, plaintive guitar, and hazy percussion comes out of a dream-like state or one of intense personal reflection. The vocals aim for the same effects and match up nicely with the musical thrust. The loving surfaces of “Revere” betrays a dollop of melancholy lingering just below the surface, but it’s difficult to feel the pain in this song thanks to the crystalline beauty the Millers’ achieve with their vocal. The slow jangle of acoustic guitars and punctuating drums of “Alright” maintain a leaden tempo, but there’s so many layers in the band’s aural presentation no one will be tempted to sleep. “Liminal” has a deceptively simple approach, but there’s much more to this delicate weave of instruments than the song might first project and the quasi-shuffle tone taken by the tempo has a light folk/country music influence that makes it immediately likeable.  

“When I’m Silent” has the same light folk music quality and the traditional instruments featured on the song take turns that are elegantly arranged and never overwrought. Kyle Miller delivers an affecting vocal whose phrasing really makes the words come alive. The indirectness of the band’s musical approach means that their songs make the most impact over the course of the whole track rather than relying on a handful of climatic pay off moments. Some songs cut against this approach. “Consolations” is a noteworthy example that finds the band branching out into comparatively new territory on the album. This track relies on a strong groove between the drums and guitar that never fails, but Kyle Miller acquits himself rather nicely with a jewel of soul singing. “Revelator Man” explores a much wider range, musically, than many of the earlier tracks thanks to its increased theatrical air. The band never strains for this posture, however; instead, they deepen their musical weave without losing any of the deceptive focus going into their earlier performances. Grey Fidelity is one of the year’s most resonant efforts.  

9 out of 10 stars 

Bradley Johnson

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