Smile Politely

Album Review: Post Historic- Memory Banks of Blue

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With the possibility that someone who believes dinosaurs and people lived together on Pangaea could vice-lead our nation as well as the questionable use of time travel on the new season of “Heroes,” the perception and manipulation of time has become an important issue in our society. Where we currently stand is another interesting one. In one sense, we are on the brink of the next step; be it economic disaster or ruthless robot dictatorship, it seems something is on the way.

But on the other hand, it’s as if we are living in a place where everything has already been done. Our post-modern world merely references or repeats the past. We’ve long moved past supposed apocalyptic dates and the prophesied Ape Rebellion of 1991. So where do we go from here? You can categorize humanity into two major eras – history and prehistory. What will lead to the next inevitability?

Post Historic, a relatively new Champaign-Urbana band, and their debut CD, Memory Banks of Blue, pose this question though never directly. It comes to mind organically; not only from their name but from the sonic landscapes the group creates. If it was based entirely on how enjoyable the eight-track disc is, it wouldn’t be too bad a place at all, albeit a bit over-dramatic at times.

The record opens with “Open Sail,” and it serves as an introduction to the post-history landscape. Lead guitar bends like Built to Spill over the sounds of a futuristic city. Vocals move in and out of the mix along a bed of reverb. The effect is a fantastic one and Post Historic’s opening track served its purpose. The listener is hooked.

The second track, however, does the complete opposite. “Serotonin” is the only true miss on Memory Banks. A rocking song for sure, it seems to rely on convention to get a crowd moving more than anything else. I feel like college students often write songs based on class notes, and this psych 100-rooted line, “Serotonin/ my essence and my being” serves as the reason that it shouldn’t happen.

“Burned by the Sea” returns the band to a good place. There’s something “new” new-wave about it, sounding like a sincere Killers, but it works well. That is until another vocalist comes in with the line “write another chapter in the book of love.” Though it comes in the last 30 seconds of the song, lines like that can be deal breakers.

The album turns around for the better on “New Garden.” Beautiful strings and mandolin follow the inventive chord changes and song structure. The instrumental bridge that follows the first chorus shows the great potential the band has. Having already proven they can handle delay pedals and a mixing board, Post Historic displays that they can be emotionally effective with simple composition and instrumentation.

“A Pattern Among Aimlessness” is just an awesome song. This could get any demographic of concert-goers – from frat dudes to Hot Topic teens to post rock hipsters — to start moving. These guys are awesome musicians and it shines through on this track. Most importantly, unlike “Serotonin” and “Burned by the Sea,” the vocals work with the instrumentation instead of making it secondary.

Overall, Memory Banks of Blue is a remarkable album. Brilliantly arranged and executed, it holds many surprises. My favorite moment may be the “Day in the Life”-inspired crescendo in the middle of “Delugeons.” I really had no idea what was going on and I loved it. On the closing title track, we come back to a subdued, maybe post-apocalyptic world that explodes into strings as the narrator sings on a sail boat in the sea. It’s a perfect conclusion to the tumultuous and histrionic ride Memory Banks takes the listener on. One of the most ambitious releases I’ve heard from a local artist in recent memory, it should definitely be heard.

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