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27 - Let the Light In

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Artist: 27

Album: Let the Light In

Label: Hydra Head

Review date: Jun. 1, 2004

Boston-based 27 shouldn’t be on Hydrahead. Or at least that’s what tunnel-visioned metal maniacs say about them. There’s even a joke about this up on the label’s website, and it’s something the musicians themselves are tickled by. The band – which has just expanded to a four-piece, now including vocalist/guitarist Maria Christopher, multi-instrumentalist Ayal Naor, drummer Neil Coulon, and bassist/guitarist Jay Cannava, the newest member – certainly isn’t about slamming out grindcore riffage or thundering hoofbeats of the metallic megalo-beasts.

Let the Light In blends dark-hued pop with a tinge of Kim Deal’s brashness and the occasional menace of P. J. Harvey (the closing “April”). But there’s also the audible influence of the very heavy bands 27 frequently play with, particularly Neurosis and kindred spirits Isis, whose heavy minimalism has clearly shaped 27’s occasional sonic tapestry. (And indeed, Isis’ Jeff Caxide and Aaron Turner do some guest musicianship here, just as 27’s Naor and Christopher provided haunting vocals and instrumental touches on Oceanic.)

These songs are far more ornate, and a bit more precious, than some of 27’s previous work. The spotlight is on Maria Christopher’s rapturous voice; with a big pop mix that features shimmering guitars and floating structures, her multi-track swoons are front and center. The dark, twangy neo-funk of “Make Love Not War” is probably far more ironic than the title portends: its mix of futuro synthesizers and close-miked acoustic guitar suggests a knowing take on awkward ideological juxtapositions. These are brief, crisply stated pop songs which, despite their accessibility and catchiness, don’t reduce easily to treacle or McMusic. There’s a dark shadow lurking behind each one (an odd-metered measure here, a dissonance there), an outer-leaning fascination with texture and mirage, and a disregard for the happy endings which so often infect pop. Not only do the structures avoid traditionalism, so too do the sentiments, even though the tracks themselves are sonically inviting.

By Jason Bivins

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