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Collections of Colonies of Bees - Birds

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Artist: Collections of Colonies of Bees

Album: Birds

Label: Radium

Review date: May. 2, 2008

When drummer Jon Mueller and guitarist Chris Rosenau, then of Pele, formed Collections of Colonies of Bees in 1998, the group was meant as an exploration of bluegrass and folk within modern contexts. Ten years later, the group is more in line with the instrumental exercises of Pele (now disbanded) than their original intent, with nary a lick of bluegrass to be found. Instead, the Bees, now expanded to a quintet (with Dan Spack on baritone guitar, Jim Schoenecker on synthesizer/electronics, and Thomas Wincek on Fender Rhodes), have moved from traditional forms into something that, if not exactly modern in 2008, remains a more contemporary take, navigating the realms that reached, it seems, accepted codification as post-rock, based on melodic composition rather than heady conceptual constructions. Birds, the group's first release since 2004, makes use of interesting structural components, but never at the expense of the music's melodic integrity, which remains the Bees' most conspicuous commodity.

The opening of "Flocks II," in which glitchy electronics flitter and cascade amongst what sounds like e-bowed guitar and understated baritone, represents some of the most pointedly pretty music on Birds. But it's not an anomaly in its comeliness. The easy gallop that soon overtakes the track never threatens its almost pastoral vibe. Whether placid or lively in tempo, Birds remains upbeat in tone, tinted with a bright, colorful aura. Even if the quintet's penchant for crescendo can feel formulaic, there's an effect that's beyond the reach of common compositional tropes, no matter how familiar the track's structure might be.

The Fender Rhodes that leads "Flocks IV" ushers in Birds’ finale, and its most conventional offering. The relaxed atmosphere that Wincek breeds on his Fender Rhodes is interrupted, as usual, by Mueller's precise, insistent percussion, culminating in a song that never rises above a rolling boil. It’s the disc’s most linear track, lacking the punch of its predecessors, but providing the album's friendliest venture. As a finale, it stakes out a particular feel; as the track simmers and fades, one can practically see the end credits to some unnamed film roll across the screen.

The entirety of Birds is evocative, to be sure, but not far removed from an aesthetic mined heavily by numerous musicians a decade prior. Still, even given such similarity, it remains cheerfully endearing.

By Adam Strohm

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