Stomacher
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Stomacher

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF
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"Stomacher Provide an "Education" in Atmosphere"

Stomacher’s album “Sentimental Education” won’t conjure up images of sunny days. Steeped in dark atmospherics, the band formerly known as In Reverent Fear has returned with a new member in tow (now a quintet), and a more focused sound. Hailing from the San Francisco bay area of California, the music suits the foggy mist of their hometown to perfection. It’s been three years since the last In Reverent Fear album “Stomacher” was released, and the band has adopted their album name as the new band name. The musical direction has changed towards a more post rock/ambient nature, but old fans will still easily embrace their new record as it is still very much the same band at its core. Still serving up loads of delay/reverb effects, Thom Yorke inspired vocals, and a gorgeous ambiance that breathes heavily in the shadows, Stomacher has returned while beginning anew.The album opens with the title track featuring a slow meandering string section and atmospheric noise with samples chattering in the background. The bass line and drums dive forward after nearly a minute, with the vocals following closely behind. The electronic vibes mix with long sustained key strokes and shifting rhythms to set the dark and murky tone of the album. “Ghost Wail,” creeps with slinky finger picked guitars, and a dazzling emotional vocal delivery. While comparisons to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke are inevitable, singer Jarrod Taylor’s croon is consistently more controlled and slightly less wavering. Acoustic guitars pair with processed drifting noise as the song crescendos into an all too brief but delightful wall of sound. While eerie moodiness builds the general sound theme for the record, it is not without its upbeat moments. “Behavior” is one of these, with a pulsating rhythmic groove that is surrounded by catchy stop-start vocals, thick reverb, and an infectious bass line. The band locks in together for beautiful post rock inspired drifts that also bare a hint of influence from their fellow Bay Area natives Dredg and Deftones’ art-prog tendencies.

“Peasant Song” continues the upbeat and vibrant energy that pulsates like a non pretentious U2 or Muse composition. Taylor’s vocals range from deep moody wails to high piecing flourishes Jeff Buckley or Robert Plant would have been proud of. The crushing layers of guitar pound together with Jeff Tollefson’s insistent distorted bass work. Possibly the most triumphant cut of the album, it comes complete with cryptic lyrics, “You feel I’m a little bit guilty, with all this blood in my mouth”. The aggressive momentum plummets on “The Devil,” a slow string and keyboard based atmospheric piece that would fit incredibly well in any given indie movie score. An emotional vocal performance equals the tone of the strings to give the track its heart wrenching mood. “Coming on a Black Day” moves back into the astounding darkness with the gorgeously sleepy ethereal playing and smooth vocal melodies. The song writing is worth noting as Stomacher focus on their songs as a whole, making murky yet memorable artistic expressions, rather than focusing on the members individual contributions. “Police” sounds as if it could have been influenced by, well… The Police. Rest assured, the song is still very much Stomacher, featuring a bouncing rhythm, anthemic sing a long chorus, and twinkling guitars that could draw comparisons somewhere between aspects of the aforementioned band, The Cure, and Joy Division.

“Any Joan A Lady” continues to infuse acoustic guitar layering within the bubbling keyboard synth and delicate percussion. Taylor sings with quiet passion and woozy lustful style over the bluesy guitar licks for a seductive and swampy tone. “Parade” rolls in with lush atmospherics creating a thick haze, complimented by the clean and precise drum pattern from John Lazarus. Fluid guitars blend together for a dense but sparkling gliding sensation, as the breathy elegance of Taylor’s voice lightly wails up and down. “Untitled/Dark Day” closes out the album with an acoustic strummed rhythm emerging from the fog to serve as the backdrop to the tastefully double and triple tracked vocal melodies. The wall of sound whirls and whips in various degrees of intensity as the music progresses ‘til its closing moments.

Multiple listens and increased familiarity strengthen the overall experience of the album as the mysterious becomes recognizable. Sentimental Education may not be an official “debut” record, but it makes a powerful statement like one. Stomacher have spent a fairly long time crafting this record, and with the final product it shows time well spent. The album’s writing sessions proved to be so fruitful that the band will be self releasing an EP, Pick Up The Phone, containing b-sides from the effort on October 2nd. With each album since the first from In Reverent Fear, the band has forged ahead and adapted its sound to encompass further established talent, grace, and intelligence. Stomacher has a bright future ahead of them, even if it is spent in the shadows. - Explodinginsound.com


"Music Thats Not Hard To Stomach(er)"

Stomacher is a band that knows what it is doing. Everything, from the art to the songwriting to the recording techniques, is highly stylized. No part of this album “just happened.” I don’t know what the people in this band are like, but I’m willing to bet they’re a lot like the guys in ’90s staples Live: serious about all aspects of their music and equally as passionate.

The music of Sentimental Education is serious music. These guys take their craft very seriously, and it shows. The easiest comparison to make is to OK Computer. Both albums have a dark, expansive quality about them that was meant to convey the idea that this all meant something. And, true to its companion, the best way to explain the music is through its accompanying art.
Sentimental Education

Sentimental Education

The feel of Sentimental Education is very stark. The cover art is a black-and-white photo freckled girl releasing a mouthful of smoke. The girl is looking down at the smoke as if it’s the first puff she’s ever released from her mouth. No name, no words, no color. It has the feel of a film print; I don’t know if it was modeled to look that way or if it actually was taken on film. But the overall image (paired with the name Sentimental Education) conveys a feel that the songs are about the way we are socialized; the idea of how to be a human in our society. The various pictures through the booklet explain this in greater detail: single man with umbrella, man sleeping on train, Asian schoolgirls, a rainy skyline, a jubilant hug, a concerned old man.

The lyrics fit right in line with this thought. The lyrics are descriptions of scenes; not stories, per se, but the feelings that a certain scene (perhaps the scenes portrayed in the booklet’s pictures?) makes the narrator feel. These aren’t pop songs; there aren’t really choruses. They aren’t post-rock pieces; the songs have weight in individual parts and not just in the overall scope of the piece.

The whole atmosphere is dark; set again by the art. Black is the most common color, and the starkness of black and white is common. The music is lush, but not so much so that the feels are obscured by the instruments. “The Devil” has strings (as well as the most spot-on impression of Thom Yorke I’ve ever heard), but the overall feel of total lostness is retained. The meaning is not clogged on the best tracks.

Even though the album speaks as a whole, there are individual tracks that speak louder than others. The delicate, Sigur Ros-esque synth beginning of “Parade” meshes seamlessly with a wiry, Interpol-esque rhythm section to create the type of song that people talk about. It’s the song that sticks out most here, because it’s the best combination of the form and style that they cultivate and downright good songwriting. It’s just a haunting piece of work.

“Police” also sticks out. It’s got a similar wispy feeling running throughout it, but the tempo is high and the adrenaline is pumping. There’s some fuzzy sounds going on, but the main stage is given to the wavering-yet-confident tenor vocals and falsetto. It’s the type of song that seems to become the moment in which it lies; it gives weight to lonely car drives or movie scenes.

The rest of the album falls in the continuum between “The Devil” (totally mood-based) and “Peasant Song” (the tambourine-shaking, distortion chomping, “Electioneering” equivalent).

Sentimental Education trades pop sensibilities for a thoroughly-realized mood, and the results are dramatic. Stomacher very nearly accomplishes everything they set out to on this release; almost everything they shoot for they acquire. This is a great release by a band that has full control and understanding of what they are capable of doing. Their highly stylized rock is powerful, intricate and consuming. - www.independentclauses.com


"Stomacher - Sentimental Education"

Stomacher knows how to fill the sound space without drowning out any of the instruments that create it. Sentimental Education begins with an orchestral fade-in that tapers off into a moody drum and bass groove with haunting ambient guitar work to set the tone. This sophisticated recording does not follow your typical verse - chorus - verse song structure. Stomacher is also not limited by the typical functions of instruments. They take an experimental approach with the beats, the function of the electric guitar and with the vocals. I will admit, at first I was having a trouble getting past the androgynous vocals, I kept wishing a woman with a deep voice were singing. . . and then it dawned on me - he sounds like Annie Lennox. I've never been so O.K. with male vocals going so high, the effect is chilling. He really uses the vocals as a well placed instrument, there's no point in focusing on whether a man or woman is singing, but instead on how what is being sung complements the rest of the ensemble.

Overall, Stomacher's Sentimental Education is extremely atmospheric, a dark and at times goose bump inducing endeavor. From the moody slower paced tracks to the more upbeat yet intense vibes given off in the faster tracks, Stomacher displays many progressive and experimental elements. The electric guitar often functions as a source of ambient noise throughout the recording. When coupled with doubled (and tripled) vocal tracks Stomacher's guitar work creates an even more haunting atmosphere. There's definitely a rock/pop feel to this album, one could even argue the presence of an indie rock or 80's revival influence. Indie rock for sure when they slow it down a notch and mellow out - almost too mellow with track 5 (The Devil).

Every aspect of this album comes across as being put together with great care and dedication, from the perfection of the actual production (even the hand clapping in track 7 (Police) displays high sound quality and control) to the performance of all of Stomacher's members. Even when they are giving the instrumentation room to breathe, the clarity of the recording shines through. I recommend listening to this album multiple times. More and more details begin to emerge and you get the full effect. - www.nygroove.blogspot.com


Discography

Stomacher (2006)
Sentimental Education (2009)
TBA (February 2012)

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Bio

This is Stomacher. If you'd like, you can describe them as a rock band with generous helpings of down-tempo and a pop sensibility, with lyrics leaning to the dark side. If you are not sure what that sounds like, you should give them a listen.
The five guys in the band form a collection of musicians intent on creating and expanding upon deep grooves, beautiful melodies and provocative lyrics.