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  Sound to Light  
  Channel 1  
Release Date:


Reviewed by:

This is one of three acts that a quick Google search for "channel + one + band" will turn up. This is the Irish band, and they are the most electronic seeming of the three MySpace's i endured. (You will want to avoid the Canadian one. Just warning you.)

They sent us this album the old-fashioned way: someone shipped a CD across the Atlantic ocean to me. I appreciate that sort of dedication, but it does mean that i forgot we had received the promo. It did not sit for long (unlike some things you might be seeing reviews of shortly), but i still feel bad for setting it aside.

I found it as i always find lost promos: when trying (futilely) to impose some kind of organization on "the wall o' CDs". So i put this CD in the player and turned it up while i straightened things up and mopped the hardwoods in my condo. And i was impressed -- very impressed. These Irish lads have got some interesting things going on, interesting things that are very in the spirit of the times. It is not like they are ripping anything off, more like there are some obvious references.

Let's consider a few tracks and hopefully you will see what i mean. Consider Retrace, a song which is built out of layers of tinkling electronically modified sounds that cascade against one another, all accompanied by a fuzzy, distorted vocal line and some clear strings. The beats and electro mangling are something that could only exist in a post-Kid A world. And yet, it does not seem like a total rip-off, perhaps because there is a mellow lushness to much of the sound that seems reminiscent of the work of Port-Royal.

Speaking of Port-Royal, Lakes is a lovely song that cascades in layers of rich, dense sound in a manner that invokes the Genovese foursome. There is some lovely drumming here as well, at times overwhelmed by a sheer torrent of effected guitar in three layers (at least, i think i count three -- it could be more!). This is a powerful tune.

Their Tortoise influence reaches almost fetish-like devotion, as A Thousand Cuts, 8/13, Okinawa, and the epic Not For the Last Time all feature deliberate keyboard rhythms in counterpoint in a very Tortoise-like fashion. Do these lads really perform live with multiple marimbas and xylophones? I am not complaining here, but these types of elements seem very central to the Channel 1 sound, and each time it makes me think of Tortoise. But the way Channel 1 uses them is different, as but one part of a complex tune, instead of the driving melodic force like Tortoise tend to use such instruments.

There aren't a lot of vocals on this album, but they are featured prominently on Not For the Last Time, which is a truly epic song. Rhythms clatter dangerously, building up to breakneck speeds on the choruses and on the bridge. Meanwhile, guitars clang away, and voices in layers chant under a deep weight of echo. This reminds me a lot of the vocal effects that Lights Out Asia use. With that other band, the vocals seem uncertain, and the echo is an effect to de-emphasize them. With Channel 1, the echo does seem to imply uncertainty, rather, the voice is effected in order to make it blend in with the other instruments, and i mean that quite literally. The echo spreads the voice out into a thin layer that does not overpower anything else, but instead makes it into a nice accompaniment. Well done.

There is about fifty minutes of music here, and i find that it is all very enjoyable, from the rollicking electro angry beats of Sobresaut to the fuzzed out denouement of Roads. Channel 1 have crafted an enjoyable and interesting record. And this is their debut LP! I look forward to seeing where they go from here.

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