The Cast Before the Break
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The Cast Before the Break

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"The Cast Before the Break - Still"

The Cast Before the Break – Still
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: August 18, 2009

But if I had only known what was to come. As Your Shoulders Turn On You was good, albeit cheesy. Its mall-goth artwork and storyline about a man stuck between death and whatever else there is intrigued me to a point. I was interested for a time, but I knew the band would need something more. And more is what we have on Still, although the quality increase has only come after serious self-editing. There’s less aping of Moving Mountains, less vocals, and less cheese. The Cast Before the Break are no longer a have-to-be-in-the-mood band. Their understanding of delicate textures and intriguing crescendos has increased to meteoric levels.

The creative process is one of trial and error. Quantity begets quality. Bands need time to fool around and find their true calling. Sometimes this takes three albums, or more commonly, it never happens. TCBTB needed the album equivalent of a long afternoon to realize that they were containing themselves in a much-too-restrictive frame. Their sound needs room to cultivate. This windows-open aesthetic lends itself to songs like six-minute “Sleep” or ear-smashing “A Series of Rooms,” which create narratives similar to the dogged delicacy of the world’s best novelists. TJ Foster’s languid delivery has lost most of its angst, only to be replaced by a deeper, more intriguing weariness. That’s not to say that Still is carefree, but this album’s certainly more relatable. When he switches to falsetto on “Perspectives,” it is for effect and necessity. These words don’t just flow out; they must be forced. He painfully yearns: “If you left it up to me / I’d write my own eulogy.” Hard to hear? Sure. Easy to listen to? Of course.

The force of Shoulders hasn’t been completely forgotten, though. “Canyons” uses feedback and distortion as a landing pad for the disembodied screams of its second half. Ryan Crosby’s drums do some seriously inventive tempo changes while the band wails with the disgruntled passion of a lover scorned. It’s Mono meets Scary Kids Scaring Kids, and I’m not going to hell for saying that. Closer “A Breath of Fresh Air” is instrumental and emotionally jarring. To think that this band could make such progressions, both between albums and within Still, makes me overjoyed despite the album’s downtrodden themes. Bands don’t typically grow like this. As a friend said, “I like things that are stylistically similar, but still made to stand on their own.” Still and As Your Shoulders Turn On You are clearly born of the same creators, but the newest incarnation is more precise in its mood. The band has mined its strengths and also searched out new ones. It’s a self-aware progression, one that can’t move forward without peering behind. And clearly, it’s a formula for monumental success.


Recommended If You Like: Moving Mountains, The Appleseed Cast, corners, "Brand New loves static!", Exacto knives - Blake Solomon (Absolutepunk.net)


"The Cast Before the Break: Still"



As Garry Hoy will tell you, the second time can be a little tricky. You have the element of surprise the first time around, whereas on the second hit, the pressure can be too much and leave you spiralling towards disaster.

In fact, the only thing more ubiquitous than the 'sophomore slump' is the number of album reviews which start off by talking about it.

Your basis for comparison is more limited, that's the main issue we can highlight in considering second albums. Even in the case of Cobra Starship, you can say that their first album was - at the time - quite possibly the best album they've ever made. Come the second and the statically-charged question hangs overhead. Is it as good as the first album?

No, we state with complete ignorance of Hitchcockian suspense-building techniques. But then Still is a completely different album, with little but the voice of front-man T.J. Foster to link it to their full-band début As Your Shoulders Turn On You. Whereas the former seared through shifting tempos, dynamic genre hops and cathartic build-and-releases, this album paces a more thoughtful path. The pulse is slower, the structures less-sprawling, the songs are more considered and there's not a western showdown to be seen anywhere.

For the more indie-minded amongst us, such a seismic shift will come as a relief, for those looking for good post-hardcore which isn't fronted by a floppy-haired androgynous suburbanite, the change is a little disappointing. Thankfully though, the post-rock trappings are still very much in evidence. Opening salvo "Mira" gently constructs the mood with a fragile tinkling riff backed by bass slides before the next track seamlessly shifts in.

Confusingly, considering the softening of the musical edge, the scream-quotant has greatly increased. "A Series of Rooms", a tortoise slow plod through vast chasms of cascading glitter is suddenly interrupted by frenzied screams which sound like a amalgamation of (second-wave) 'screamo' and a Hitler speech. We mean just in terms of delivery there, we wouldn't want to offend the band by comparing them in personality to such a monstrous entity as a 'screamo' band.

Speaking of screams, memorise the phrase "Can I Scream? Yeah! We lack the motion to move to the new beat" for you may need it come the arrival of track nine, "Canyons". While the loss of the purposeful album narrative weighs heavy, Still is considerably more epic, with almost every track masterfully entwining elements of post-rock, indie, rock and small smatterings of post-hardcore. The Cast Before the Break have cemented their position as one of the best bands you can almost guarantee none of your friends will know, and we all know music snobbery is more fun than pushing a slinky down an upwards escalator.

Perhaps "The Hill" best showcases our favourite strength of the band. While we often consider them a spiritual contemporary of Moving Mountains, it's Foster's mastery of oddball vocal techniques - something which MM are somewhat lacking, such as the high upturned pique which masks a complete tonal transformation from the rest of the band.

A usual indicator of a great album's longevity is a lukewarm initial response which gradually climbs by around 2% with each listen. Consider this such an album.
- Aidan Williamson (Strangeglue.com)


Discography

"As Your Shoulders Turn On You" (2008)
1. Onward, Love
2. From the Earth, at a Crossroad
3. Agnosia
4. Understanding the Universe
5. Cerca Trova
6. Relying on a Respirator

"Still" (2009)
1. Mira
2. Sleep
3. The Hill
4. Head on a String
5. To Believe in Something
6. Culling
7. A Series of Rooms
8. Perspectives
9. Canyons
10. A Breath of Fresh Air

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