To what we’re listening: Root Glen’s Winter EP

Whether it’s emails from East Anglia or that leftover, freezer-burned Yankee pot roast that once warmed my chilled, cabin-feverish soul and has yet to depart the refrigerator, I just can’t trust the seasons anymore. (Blame my preference for pre-Enlightenment alchemedic metallurgy over 21st century “science” or the fact that it was 40 degrees two days ago and today it was 80 and hailing with the sun out.) One thing in which I’ve learned I can trust, though, is the continued development of the band Root Glen. That trust is based on being more than seventy-five percent of the way through the New Jersey-based band’s formative year of quarterly, seasonally themed releases. In fact, that year’s almost up, as the group’s spring offering is due out shortly. I don’t even care that this review is so late, because it could snow tomorrow in Topeka, and you need to be mentally ready for that.

The sparse, dry, wintry sounds of “Throw it in the Bay” appropriately open Winter, and the tune is an excellent way to start this EP. The sound immediately transports the listener to that dark, snowbound cabin depicted in the cover art. The verse rocks out in a fashion reminiscent of the darker turn heard on the band’s Fall release with a few appropriate variations: 1) rather than straight-ahead rock, there’s a slight jam feel around the fringes creating more of a slowly looping feel, something that both reminds the listener of the band’s loose, early sound and, here, suggests a nice feeling of ongoing despair; 2) the production value continues to improve, and on this song, it serves to mute the sound– much like a heavy snow would– as much as tighten it; 3) guitarist Ross Griswold’s lead line threads a long approach through the song that both compliments the feel described as variation (1) and 4) provides some developing continuity for those appropriately frequent times when the thicker parts back out into sparseness.

The second cut, “Lost in the Night” opens like Everlast’s “What it’s Like” and features an up-front exchange between David Moroney on vocals and Eric Blank’s kit cymbals. Griswold tastefully varies the electronics on his instrument to create some subtle soundscapes underneath these two, and Andres Gonzales gets a feature toward the end after rooting this tune with his occasionally and deftly muted bass. And just as the first song gave way to a more prominent role for Moroney and Blank in the second, it’s Gonzales’ more pronounced bass that leads the way into “Removed.” The reggae feel hinted at with some of the jam sensibilities present in the first song appears in this third song, placing the listener on a calmer, higher plateau after rising through the first two pieces. Gonzales’ slightly slappy bass eventually gives way to an airy interlude that visually recalls standing on a mountain as clouds rush by in a time-lapse video.

This lilt continues into “Out of Frame,” which will be the first number likely to draw the casual listener to the EP credits to find out who’s playing that saxophone (Marty Eigen), but it’s the distant, unison vocals that especially recall Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. (While looking at the credits, the listener will discover that five additional individuals helped Root Glen on three of Winter‘s five songs in various ways, including everything from songwriting to vocals and instrumentation.) At last, “Caradhras” is a fitting tag for Winter, a seven and a half minute piece of modern progressive (post-progressive? post-post-progressive?) rock that contains a nice hook and a very slight bit of tension-and-release work while staying within the introspective confines of the EP.

With Winter, Root Glen shows listeners yet another of their faces, this one perhaps the most mature yet, reminding us very clearly of a season this year did not bring us. As before, you can stream or purchase Winter at http://rootglen.bandcamp.com/album/root-glen-winter. Catch up on the latest band news at RootGlen.com.

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