Threefifty – Gently Among the Coals
Threefifty has massive ambitions, but their music doesn’t readily communicate them. This new collection Gently Among the Coals isn’t some chin held high over-exertion of musical strength in an effort to will some masterpiece into being. Instead, Threefifty produce music that sounds like a natural outgrowth of their interests, passions, skills, and experiences and possess an effortless creativity in this direction that manifests itself as a wide-ranging and quite surprising effort. Gently Among the Coals is an album never content with taking straight lines. It is, instead, a winding and imaginative musical ride with literary power frequently unheard on mainstream releases. Daring can only pay off if you possess the chops and the discipline to back it up. Even a cursory listen to Gently Among the Coals convinces you Threefifty has plenty of both qualities to burn.
“Crossing State Lines” picks the album up with a great boost. The guitar sounds are warm, chiming, and expansive. Threefifty’s writing arranges them in such a way that it sounds like a small guitar army and the playing makes many unexpected changes along the way that bring surprising spikes of energy to the performance. Few songs will make the impact on listeners that we get with “Allegiance”. This is a song that has no lyrical or vocal fear. Singer Leon Guerrero quietly and with great emotion strips away layer upon layer from their heart dramatizing a poem originally written by band member Jennifer Stock’s deceased mother Vicki Kennelly Stock. The accompaniment for this song is quite suiting of the lyric and it has a near flawless movement towards its conclusion. “Andromeda” is one of Gently Among the Coals’ compositional summits. They show their mastery of putting together a song from the ground up that’s capable, by its mid way point, of harnessing more energy than you may have initially thought possible. Their control over these various elements is the most impressive part of these performances.
“Until Our Hearts Give Out” is an unique stylistic synthesis, but one of the album’s most direct tunes nonetheless. The electric guitar work is key for this and fleshes out the electronic underpinning with a grab bag of first class melodic movements. “The Door” is Gently Among the Clouds’ second lyric from Kennelly Stock and it’s a much more uncertain, even darker affair than the intense first track. The song’s mind seems to be more on spiritual matters here, but they are question a poet would ask and Threefifty does an excellent job of making the lyrics’ meaning even more open to interpretation. “Running in a Burning Building” shows off more of their stylish flexibility with the inclusion of brass and how it enriches the material’s emotional tenor. It is nothing like the album’s closer, however. “Freedmen” is perfectly in keeping with the band’s wont for throwing curve balls at their audience and its reliance on a largely electronic approach has a surprisingly dramatic build and culminates nicely. Threefifty has added an enormous achievement to their discography with this album and it shows the band still remains hungry to wander and explore new horizons.