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Kepler - Attic Salt

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Artist: Kepler

Album: Attic Salt

Label: Troubleman Unlimited

Review date: Oct. 9, 2005

While melancholy is commonly viewed as a negative, a hindrance and a roadblock on the path to ultimate happiness, there are an abundance of those people who would disagree: People who relish in, even need, those blue periods. I’d venture to guess that Samir Khan, bassist and lead vocalist for Ottowa’s Kepler, is just such a person. On Attic Salt, Kepler embrace the downcast vibe and wrap themselves in an blanket of pensive gray clouds and rainy days. The album’s not just gloom and doom, however, and Khan and Co. aren’t simply mining the melancholy for the sake of its emotional cache.

Though the band sometimes finds success in more upbeat (tempo-wise, at least, though often not lyrically) material, Kepler seem most comfortable engaging in the languid, overcast mode that’s exemplified best by the album’s opener, “Broken Bottles Blackened Hearts.” When they’re on, Kepler bring heft to the simple, emotive songwriting, and seem to do so rather effortlessly. What’s perplexing is that often, just a song later, the group’s output can feel forced and overwrought. Interestingly, it’s often Kepler’s most stripped-down numbers that are the greatest offenders, perhaps because the added traffic of the fuller songs helps to diffuse the attention focused on any one facet. Predictability can set in, and too often Kepler’s tracks seem too by-the-numbers to really pack the emotional punch they might.

Of course, pathos and depth aren’t dependent on a sense of the new and different, often it’s just the opposite. Kepler, though, don’t utilize the manipulative aspects of the familiar musical forms enough to tug at the proverbial heartstrings in the way they could, though it’s laudable that they don’t usually take the easy way. Too frequently, the melancholy that seems to have ensnared Kepler isn’t effectively transferred to the listener, and thus – left to a colder, more analytical analysis – Attic Salt seems wanting. Perhaps Kepler could benefit from further embellishment of their sound, or a starker, more enveloping version of their simpler material. The music here seems stuck between the two.

By Adam Strohm

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