Ester Drang - Infinite Keys
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Ester Drang
Infinite Keys

At the beginning of Infinite Keys, it sounds as if maybe the group has decided to go off in a completely different direction. "The Temple Mount" opens with a batch of distorted clanging and weird vocals, but it's soon swept up in a rise of orchestra swings until the track falls back down into more familiar territory for the group. On their debut of Goldenwest, the group worked a fairly solid debut of hit-or-miss tracks that piqued my interest, but lost me on long term listens because it simply went on for far too long.

The group seems to have at least realized that one point, as Infinite Keys is a much more immediate affair. Although they haven't changed their sound a great deal, they've definitley honed things down a bit more, and it works to their advantage. Years ago, I would have balked at the site of a 38 minute full-length (back in the day when nearly everyone was packing discs to the brim full of material, much of which should have probably ended up as b-sides), but it's the slightly shortened length of the release that fits nicely this time around. They come in with thick strings and all kinds of cinematic sounds and swoops, then leave you just in time, even wanting a bit more.

In terms of songs, the opening track mentioned above isn't one of the best songs on the album. It's packed with layers of nice sounds and great vocals, but there isn't much to hold your interest in terms of hooks until the slightly more upbeat "Dead Man's Point Of View," which follows. Mixing layers of keyboards and reverb-drenched guitars, the track alternately jaunts along and soars. That slight juxtaposition of playful and majestic is one of the bands strong points on the disc actually. "One Hundred Times" has all kinds of quirky little keyboard melodies that pop in and out of the mix under lovely verses, but they draw out the choruses into dense slow-burns that make the song one of best on the album.

By far, though, the best one-two punch are the tracks of "If They Only Knew" and "All The Feeling." The former mixes swelling strings and acoustic guitars with piano and weary vocals, while the latter is flat-out the most stunning track on the release. Again leading in with a nice piano melody, the group layers chimes and strings down until a blissful release of vocals and ringing guitars. Even as the meltdown occurs, funny little slidewhistle sounds are warbling about, yet it only lends a real sense of playful hope to the song rather than silliness. Quite possibly the best song the group has done to date. The album closes with "I Don't Want To Live (In A World Of Infinite Keys)" and naturally (given the title) features a cascading piano melody that works itself into a mellow shutdown track. While the group never rocks out hard, the album is a definite sign of maturity from the group and seems to just get better as it progresses, closing out with the strongest material. An excellent album of warm orchestral rock.

rating: 7.2510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00