Dead Sea Choir
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Dead Sea Choir

Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
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"Dead Sea Choir - 8.5"

Dead Sea Choir - The Thin One The Red One
Record Label: Brass Ltd.
Release Date: Jan. 13, 2009

reviewed by Gregory Robson.

The most startling aspect of Dead Sea Choir's grandiose, arena-art rock debut The Thin One The Red One is that it was constructed inside a bedroom in Tulsa, OK and not in a Manchester studio. This is no slight against Tulsa, but one wouldn't expect a place as humdrum and unassuming as Tulsa to be the hometown of such an ambitious Brit-inspired musical project. That is the case though on this 10-song stunner, self-produced, mixed and engineered by 24-year-old lead singer Costa Stasinopoulous.

A self-admitted fan of Radiohead and Coldplay, Stasinopoulous and guitarist Daniel Gimlin formed the group after a few years fronting a local act known as Straight Lines. The band had limited success in Oklahoma and after they were informed that a 1970s band had used the same moniker, they went about starting anew. The duo rotated band members for roughly a year before settling on a final lineup.

The Thin One the Red One took more than three years to make and it's this simple fact that might account for its lofty ambitions and startling power. Though long-winded in numerous places, the disc is so forward-thinking and artful, an immediate comparison might be Of Montreal. No, not musically or sonically, but rather in the same abstract sense. That is to say, the psyche of Kevin Barnes is probably one of a select few that can honestly understand exactly what's going on in these 10 songs.

While it may be hard to follow, this epic album has a veneer of seasoning and audacity that one would expect from a band many albums into their career, not one just starting out, especially from someone as young as 24. That such is true makes The Thin One The Red One a truly stunning achievement. What's more impressive is there is nary a hook, chorus or anything even potentially radio worthy offered here. And yet, the songs are so contemporary and so commercially viable, it's silly to think this album won't make a splash, if it gets into the right hands.

For starters, vocalist Stasinopoulous has a big earthy, emotive croon that immediately calls to mind folks like Guy Garvey, Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke. The album's only letdown is that it never allows Stasinopoulous the full room to roam here. Often times, he seems to yield his vocal limits to a wash of guitars and sonic fuzz. And oh yes, there's plenty of sonic fuzz. There's also a dash of piano arpeggios, sweeping strokes of reverb, a host of dissonant guitar work, sporadic strings and a plethora of blips and bleeps. It's this penchant for electronica, fuzzy static and random percussion that allow the Radiohead comparisons to last far beyond the vocals.

On the full bloom of "Image D93" and the undeniably precise "On the Up and Up," the band wields their talent and fine-tuned precision to a T. The twinkling piano on "Move it Child," sounds more like a Viva la Vida B-side than that of something concocted in the Sooner State, while the heavy use of electronics on "Oriental Drippo," sounds more like Hail to the Thief than that of America's heartland.. None of this is a bad thing, however. Heck, there should be more songs as gripping, operatic and elegaic as "The Ceiling."

In truth this album might be too ambitious for its own good. Songs change tempos so quickly and dramatically, almost meandering at their own volition, without any regard for pace, chorus or conclusion. It's all a bit head-scratching and awe-inspiring at the same time. One thing is certain though: A new barometer has been set for the Oklahoma music scene and it's easy to think it's a barometer that won't get passed for quite a long time. As an added bonus, the album's liner notes and CD art are more than worth purchasing. Skipping out and buying a digital version would not do this band the proper artistic justice.
- AbsolutePunk.net


"The 5 Bands to see at Norman Music Festival 2009"

OKG PICKS

One day, 12 stages, 90-plus performances — It’s impossible to see it all, so here’s a short list of Gazette-approved Norman Music Festival highlights that are more than worth your while.


DEAD SEA CHOIR
4 p.m.
Opolis stage, 113 n. Crawford
Tulsa’s Dead Sea Choir fills its sails with a moody wind of atmospheric rock ’n’ roll. Sweeping, morose melodies rise like the tide and drown like an anchor. A beacon of light is found in the voice of frontman Costa Stasinopoulos, whose affected, six-octave range never strains, even amid his emotional flood of lyrics and the band’s crashing sonic wash.

MAN MAN
7:30 p.m.
Main stage, 100 block of Main Street
A wonderfully weird Philadelphia outfit known for wild stage antics involving body paint, synthesizers, sousaphones and scads of other instruments, its seven members blow, hit, bow and shake. The band’s upbeat 2008 album, “Rabbit Habits,” was well received by critics and fans who appreciate a little nonsense and a lot of experimentation.

JABEE
6:30 p.m.
Red Room Stage, 114 W. Main
The reigning king of metro hip-hop, Oklahoma City’s emcee Jabee inks thoughtful songs about life, love and personal struggle. His 2008 album, “Blood is the New Black,” was an organic, gritty and soulful street tale set to choice funk and R&B samples, and his recent “Valentines Day” EP proves the rapper had no problem wearing his witty heart on his sleeve.

TODD SNIDER
7:30 p.m.
Jagermeister Stage, Near Main Street and Porter Avenue
Nashville, Tenn., indie-folk troubadour Todd Snider’s gravely twang perfectly hems the frayed edges of his roughly recorded alt-country. Last year’s “Peace Queer” rose to the top of the Americana charts. Snider’s songs have been re-recorded by Okie red-dirt rockers Cross Canadian Ragweed and he co-wrote “Barbie Doll” with Texas country heavyweight Jack Ingram.

OF MONTREAL
10:30 p.m.
Main Stage, 100 Block of Main Street
The Athens, Ga., indie-pop rockers are no stranger to the metro. Last year’s frantic “Skeletal Lamping” was an out-of-control music vehicle the five-piece drove down dozens of musical directions. Sometimes dark, often humorous and always entertaining, Of Montreal combines experimental electronica with catchy melodies and join-along choruses.
—Joe Wertz
- OK Gazette


"Cover Story"

Sink or Swim

With a new, fine-tuned album, Dead Sea Choir keeps afloat with tenacity and adaptability

By Josh Kline

A certain amount of audacity is expected from all musicians. Everyone anticipates arrogance, childishness and delusions of grandeur out of even the most talentless and obscure performers. There's a running joke (or observation) that most musicians are good at only one thing, and most of the time they're not even very good at that.

The natural reaction to this is found in much of the indie world. Musicians with serious artistic aspirations respond in an equally laughable (and arrogant) way--they militantly eschew the spotlight in favor of "allowing the music to speak for itself", avoid interviews, have no tolerance for traditional fandom and generally elevate themselves above, well, everybody.

When Of Montreal sold its song "Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)" to Outback Steakhouse, you could hear fans screaming "Sellout!" from Portland to Athens, Georgia. Nevermind that frontman Kevin Barnes had to move to Norway in order to be able to afford healthcare for his daughter. The old "I gotta feed my kids" excuse doesn't cut it anymore.

Between these two worlds (for the sake of argument we'll reduce them to commercially viable radio rock and starving artist indie rock) lies a chasm, a niche that is rarely occupied. That niche belongs to the artist capable of making music that attains both artistic respect and commercial success. Call it arena art-rock.

It'd be beyond audacious for me to deem a local band of no renown as the future of this so-called "arena art-rock", so I won't. But it's tempting. Dead Sea Choir as a concept is nothing short of a sonic miracle, and it's taking place here in Tulsa. There's no other band in Oklahoma that's attempting anything this ambitious. The closest competitor would be Other Lives (formerly Kunek), but even they feel intimate and low-key when placed next to DSC.

Periodic Table

The current (and permanent) lineup of Dead Sea Choir is Costa Stasinopoulos (on keys and vocals), guitarist Daniel Gimlin, guitarist Philip Phillips, bassist Geordan Taylor and drummer Patrick Ryan. This roster was solidified last year when Phillips joined the band, and after years of experimenting with different band dynamics, it seems that that they've found a balance of talents and personalities that should serve them well in the future.

Tulsa's an unlikely place to produce an album as epic, forward-thinking and modern as Thin One the Red One. Dead Sea Choir's debut, produced and recorded here by local musicians who grew up in south Tulsa, is a geographical oddity when you examine the past and present musical landscape of Oklahoma. It's an album of contradictions, of colliding ideas, of reckless ambition.

Sonically, it's ten kitchen sinks worth of production concepts mashed together into one unwieldy whole. It's a cyborg of an album--equal parts organic and synthetic, with a huge beating heart holding the disparate elements together. That's a hokey analogy, but it's fitting.

There's a strong emotional undercurrent that threads the entire album together; Stasinopoulos's voice is shamelessly, classically emotive, and although he's already garnering comparisons (both favorable and not) to Radiohead's Thom Yorke, no one short of Jeff Buckley emotes in such a hugely operatic, shamelessly romantic fashion.

His vocals are complemented by equally sweeping, reverb-drenched instrumentation. Huge piano arpeggios, ambient, at times dissonant guitar work, occasional strings and a plethora of unconventional electronica (blips and beeps, fuzzy static, disjointed percussion, dreamy Eno-esque soundscapes) join a ferocious rhythm section that, taken as a whole, resolutely defies easy description.

Songs evoke comparisons to everything from post-rock bands like Mogwai to virtuoso composers like Philip Glass and Jon Brion. It's a testament to modern technology that much of this was recorded in the confines of a bedroom studio (though parts were recorded in a fully stocked though still modest studio space), but it's even more amazing to discover that most of it was produced by the 24-year-old Stasinopoulos himself. It's staggeringly mature work for such a young, self-taught musician.

Live, the band is a different animal, and one with much room for growth. While the album is all fine-tuned precision, the live performance is raw and unbridled. It's an aggressive rock show that feels off-the-cuff, and while it's impressive and inviting, it can be, at times, erratic. Part of this has to do with the fact that the album was recorded scattershot over three years, much of it by a studio-isolated Stasinopoulos. The band as a studio entity has fully bloomed; as a live concept, they're still growing, although more rapidly all of a sudden.

"There are definitely sounds that are hard to replicate live," Gimlin said. "But that's another fun and inspiring part of the c - Urban Tulsa Weekly


Discography

Dead Sea Choir
Thin One the Red One
2009
FREE DOWNLOAD AT:
http://mirsindikat.com/sites/deadseachoir/TORO/DSC-TORO-PACKAGE-2009.zip

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Bio

Dead Sea Choir is the music of unapologetically big ideas.

The project was formed by Costa Stasinopoulos and Daniel Gimlin, two budding musicians at the peak of adolescence - precocious, literate and ambitious. Not content with the simplicity of the modern Garage Band and frustrated by the complacency of some top-forty radio, they saw Dead Sea Choir as an opportunity to create the kind of unstoppable force that would utilize a pop frame of reference as the starting point for exceptionally grandiose music, both epic, and, idealistically speaking, timeless. This kind of unbridled zeal is often seen as the folly of youth, but over the last eight years, Stasinopoulos and Gimlin have proven that adolescent naiveté had little to do with their ever-present fervor. Rarely does a project aim so astronomically high so early in its conception …

Today, the Dead Sea Choir concept is alive and well. With Stasinopoulos on vocals and keys and Gimlin on guitar, drummer Patrick Ryan, bassist Geordan Taylor and guitarist Philip Phillips fill out a quintet of individual visions and talents that, when brought together, compose a powerhouse of both musicianship and big ideas that is assured in its vision and alarming in its complexity.

Over the last two years, the band has diligently pieced together its debut masterpiece, Thin One the Red One.

As recorded, produced and engineered by Stasinopoulos, the album carries the weight of a perfectionist’s execution— the product of an endlessly gifted obsessive who approaches his craft with an uncommonly astute balance of intelligence, tenacity and passion. After an extended gestation period, wherein the album was written, recorded and tweaked ad infinitum, the end result finally proves as audacious as it does deliberate.

Lyrically, Thin One the Red One approaches existence as a series of never-ending conflicts, creation versus destruction, beauty versus deformity, life versus death, harmony versus cacophony, God versus Lucifer… Man versus all of the above.

The effect can be overwhelming at times, and one can quickly tell that the music is meant to reflect the tough lyrical themes. Melody and dissonance conquer each other as songs are destroyed and rebuilt again and again. The result is something beautiful, even hypnotic, but also jarring and epileptic, albeit purposefully. It's hard to gauge what listener response will be in the months to come, but the word "divisive" comes to mind.

Whatever the opinions of Thin One the Red One are destined to be, a live show with Dead Sea Choir is a completely different animal, and should be seen as such. There's a sense of restraint in their performance that accentuates the epic nature of what they're attempting; the unorthodox and sometimes provoking elements of the album are all but completely absent. The result is an impressively streamlined set that maintains a palpable aggression while carefully navigating the waters between passionate showmanship and needless histrionics.

As they continue to push the boundaries of artistic prowess and commercial relativity, only two things are certain: the name Dead Sea Choir will soon be known, and those that know it will have an opinion. A strong one at that.