March 24, 2010

Serena-Maneesh – S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor

S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor
4AD; 2010

If athletes and musicians have anything in common (besides being a hyper-talented small minority of the human race), it’s that they each absolutely loathe the fact that most writers dredge up the most outlandish comparisons available in attempt to describe their work. For basketball players, it’s Michael Jordan; for contemporary indie-rock artists, it’s probably Radiohead. No one wants to be laden with the “responsibility” of living up to such a weighty proclamation, and no one wants to be viewed as a bust if they don’t fulfill those expectations.

So, I hope that Serena-Maneesh will excuse me when I state that S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor is one of the better records in the post-Radiohead tradition that I’ve heard in awhile. A dark, spooky atmosphere pervades these eight songs, as the mood drifts between dense, brooding ballads and driving electro-clash rockers. There’s a powerful urgency to the project, one that’s set into motion by a solid base of surly guitars, droning bass, and syncopated drumming. It’s only when the reverb-laden vocals pierce the skronks and squeals of the synths and samplers do we truly gain a glimpse of the rich sonic palette in use.

Much like the music of Thom Yorke and Company, this is a coherent, unified effort that’s bursting with energy and passion, while still allowing the listener to inject his or her own experiences. Each song can stand up on its own, but there are these regular breaks into gloomy, ethereal material that provide the strand that ties it all together. The result is the soundtrack for a frenetic, kinetic new-school horror movie or a low-budget indie action flick (think of a ‘00s or ‘10s version of Trainspotting), one dripping with plenty of introspective pathos. I could talk about other bands I hear with these songs – Spiritualized covering Ava Adore by Smashing Pumpkins or how Serena-Maneesh could be the rocking older sibling of The Raveonettes and A Sunny Day In Glasgow – but that just wouldn’t be fair.

Ultimately, I’m drawn into S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor because of the pervasive, electric tension that exists between aggression and apathy with these songs. Hearing tracks like “Reprobate!,” “Blow Yr Brains Out In The Morning Rain,” and “D.I.W.S.W.T.T.D.,” I feel encouraged to get out into the world in a nice frenzy, eager to change things. With “Ayisha Abyss,” “Honeyjinx,” and “Magdalena (Symphony #8),” I simply feel like chilling out and checking out everything because nothing really matters. Thus, all comparisons aside, this outstanding album works for me on two distinct levels: it provides this esoteric reflection of how many of us either engage or disengage with life, and it’s filled with really pulsing, excellent music.

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