The Constellation Branch
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The Constellation Branch

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"The Constellation Branch The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass"

Man's relationship to his dreams has been the subject of his art forever. Nothing else seems so beyond our realm of control yet so integrally personal - it is us but outside of us. And so, myriad records have been made in reflection of that ponderous relationship. The Constellation Branch's debut full length, The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass, is another document of this struggle to go down in the annals of Morpheus and mankind.

To begin with, the organic structure of the record mimics the dream process lucidly to me, which deserves an accolade itself. For a band whose first record just came out to show that kind of maturity and foresight into the construction of their album is impressive in a way that surpasses the effort of any other band I can think of. The album rolls with lulls and peaks, vacillating from the ethereal to the ephemeral effortlessly like the last moments of consciousness escaping as the lights go out. To be able to extract that from a record at all is testament to its worthiness to be heard.

And the music itself conveys that relationship between the Land of Nod and the Earth itself exceptionally well - going from textured post-rock of Mogwai or Envy to the catchy immediacy of Cave In's later material. I don't think the satisfaction of hearing effect-laden meandering erupting into a big riff will ever wane for me, especially when it's done in a more evocative way than the whole “quiet-loud-quiet-loud” dynamic which has been the crutch of an entire genre. Maybe it's the fact that the riffs have a very unique surf-rock feel to me that stops it from being stale and moves it into its own entity.

The only thing hindering the record for me comes from the fact that when the guitars kick and and want to bring you back to life from the dream-like passages - it just doesn't completely happen. I want the guitars to soar and instead they glide along with what was going on before. Perhaps we've all been too spoiled from the proliferation of slick production jobs which are as common as photoshopped band logos, but I just want a little bit more liveliness out of the guitars. Other than that, everything is exceptionally solid and well-placed.

The Constellation Branch is exciting since it shows that there is some life left in a scene bloated with post-rock band whose idea of song writing revolves around nothing but riff repetition while increasing the volume of the music. That stopped feeling dynamic quite a while ago. But, at the same time, I wouldn't put them entirely alongside Mono or Explosions in the Sky - I guess the closest approximation I could give would be mewithoutYou's punk sensibility reinterpreting Radiohead's tactile moments. But, rest assured (pun intended) this is its own beast. -

"The Constellation Branch - The Dream Life, the Real Life, the Empty Glass"

The Constellation Branch's new album has sat with me for far too long, and I think I know why - it's a mood album if there ever was one. For example, as I listen and write this, everything seems to be clicking right into place and it's delivering with its utmost potential. However, if I was say, upbeat at the moment and not warn out from my two hours of basketball earlier, I'm pretty sure I'd have changed it by now. That's not a bad thing, however, and there are plenty of albums that sit with me in certain moods. Minus the Bear's Planet of Ice only plays when I'm completely mellow, while I only bring out Bring Me the Horizon's Suicide Season if I'm jamming with a few friends. Despite this point, it's made a great impression on me, because when I'm in the mood for it, The Dream Life, the Real Life, the Empty Glass just will not let go.

The fact that I've sat on it for so long and through so many listens has at least proven it has some lasting power. I don't know why it wouldn't, it's far from boring and monotonous. In fact, it's so all over the place in some places that it's jarring (but not totally in a bad way). A great instance of this is in the third track entitled "The Empty Glass (Zero Equals Zero)" where it rises from vocalist Jordan Cruz singing across a precarious wall of sound before blowing up into his screaming and a discordant riff. This track holds this note, and then, like the rest of the album, seamlessly flows into "Ellipses" where Cruz croons across an acoustic guitar. They combine so many different genres in this album that I really don't know where half of it comes from. There are moments where something reminds me of Lovedrug, then seconds later I instantly scream "At the Drive-In!" before being once again deceived and thrown into a mix of just about anything. The epic, 18 minute closer "The Dream Sequence" jumps between an uncountable number of sounds.

Their inclusion of uncommon instrumentation, whether it be just their inhibitions against flowing with the norm of the actual addition of instruments (such as the cello) really give them a sound all of their own. It's impossible to peg this album down with one sound, and though it has its ups and downs, I find myself liking most, if not all of it. It can be as downplayed and simple as Lovedrug, as full and theatric as The Dear Hunter, and even as strange as The Sound of Animals Fighting.

There's really no way I can describe the sound of this album, but I can tell you it's really quite great and you'd better get to checking it out. Sure, you may have to be in the right mood, but once it rolls around you'll get swept up in the technicality and intricacy of this album. They throw in just about every genre you can imagine, and it's really impossible to not like at least a moment of this album. Each of the members of The Constellation Branch hold their own on their respective instruments, and when they're mixed together they've managed to craft an album that is not only great, it's one of the best creative endeavors I've heard in quite awhile. -

"The Constellation Branch – The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass…"

This album is amazing! I know that’s a rather weak start to a review, but I can’t help but blurt it out when I think of The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass… from The Constellation Branch. It’s technical alternative meets melodic post-hardcore a la Thrice, As Cities Burn, or At the Drive In. Songs like “The Real Life (American Earth)” bring in an old school punk influence for the vocals, while the complex artistry of “The False Awakening Pt. II: The Carnival” has echoes more reminiscent of Lovedrug or even Further Seems Forever (Jason Gleason era)… that is until it reaches the bridge when a subtle Led Zeppelin influence kicks in.

In other words, if you’re a fan of bands that are hard to describe, you’ve read far enough. Drop the review and pick up the album already. You have nothing to lose. The guitars are intricate, the melodies both epic and down-to-earth. Its texture carries a contrast of darkness and beauty, in a cohesive variety resembling Queen’s A Night at the Opera or even Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

I had to double and triple check that this band is actually unsigned before writing this review, and the fact that they are only provides me with further proof of the record industry’s current incompetence. If you’re a fan of anything from Circa Survive or The Blood Brothers to My Epic or Brand New, then do yourself a favor and check out the latest from The Constellation Branch.

10/10 -

"The Constellation Branch - The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass"

The Constellation Branch is a young and relatively new band comprised of four Arizona natives who came together about two years ago. The quartet’s do-it-yourself attitude led them to self record and self release their debut full length, serving as a great example of a band creating a wonderful record on their own without the help of a bloated budget or an overpriced producer. Moreover, The Dream, The Real Life, The Empty Glass was actually released at the end of 2008; however, with the breadth of high profile releases earlier this year, this little gem was overlooked and put to the side until now.

The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass is a grower. Many people will probably write it off as just another indie record after the first, second, and maybe even third listen; by the fifth or sixth play through, however, everything starts to come together, but even then full comprehension is tough to achieve. The music is heavily layered with different instruments all playing their part in creating a dark, moody, and atmospheric vibe that continues to grow as the album progresses. Additionally, the meaning behind the philosophically tinged lyrics is difficult to decipher but satisfying to listen to nonetheless.

The album is split into three different sections, reflecting the title The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass. Each part has its own distinct feel that continues for a few songs, then a transition takes place to prepare the listener for the next section. These transitions are subtle at first but start to make more sense the more the songs are played. The music is fairly straight forward for the first few tracks and is even heavy at times, then a guitar and vocal interlude paves the way for the next part of the album which is further enveloped in a rich, dark mood. There seems to be more experimentation with various instruments here, giving it a quirkier sound than the other songs on the album. The final portion of the album focuses more on building up to a moment within the songs, starting off slowly and simply and then becoming more intense and musically complex at the end of each track.

It’s clear The Constellation Branch put a lot of effort into their full length. The Dream Life, The Real, The Empty Glass feels like a fully realized album, with over 50 minutes of music and a very clear direction from start to finish. The only major downside is that some people may be turned off by the album’s complexity and may not want to invest five or six hours of their time building up an appreciation for it. Other than that, The Constellation Branch have created a solid first effort that begs to be heard by fans of atmospheric indie rock.

"The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass: Interview with The Constellation Branch"

I stumbled across the AZ band, The Constellation Branch, a while back and was immediately impressed with the songs they had posted on their MySpace page. At the time, an upcoming CD was merely a rumor. Months later and the birth of a new year, I finally got to listen to The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass. I can safely say that this incredible piece of work was definitely worth the wait.

Jordan Cruz and Bryce Hill began writing together about three years ago, but didn’t start getting serious until they added drummer, Stephen O’Sicky. The band went thru five or six different bass players before they found the perfect fit in Aaron Motley in the summer of 2007.

“This is our first official CD,” Bryce Hill stated when I was able to catch up with him on the phone last week. “Jordan and I recorded a few songs when we first got together, but we never officially released a CD. It took us forever to finish.”

They first started the The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass in May of 2007, when they recorded "American Earth" with friends Mike Dwyer and James Mitchell. “We first thought it was going to be an EP,” said Bryce, “We were just going to do four or five songs, but we had this concept idea, so we thought we should just go ahead and do a full length and record the other songs we wanted to record too. The first five or six songs are what we originally planned for the initial EP, and we just added the other half. It was a very long and stressful process.”

There are so many intricate layers it’s really hard to catch everything unless you’re listening with headphones or really closely. What is very apparent is the relationship the songs have with one another and the rollercoaster of emotions the music can evoke. Bryce gave me some insight on the concept, “The dream life is what we are hoping for, an idealistic type of view of what we want the world to be. The real life kind of contrasts that. If you listen to 'American Earth', it talks about corporations, business, greed, and how the earth really is. The empty glass is where we, not just as a band, but as humans fit into this equation; how we are all kind of empty and we choose what we fill ourselves with. We can fill ourselves with greed or with dreams that may or may not come true… or it could be just love and caring for people."

“With the music in general,” Bryce continued, “We wanted to encompass all those different emotion; even if they were just emotions we made like being greedy or anger. They are all, lyrically, emotions Jordan went through in the process of making the CD.”

One particularly moving piece is titled “The False Awakening Pt III: Poisoned Apple” which features a voice over of an older German woman which sounds like it was dubbed from an old movie. When asked about this mysterious woman, Bryce told me, “That’s my Grandma. I recorded her 2 years ago just talking about the war. She grew up in Germany, and my mom was born there. Her family was anti-Nazi and they were trying to escape that life, so she had some pretty incredible stories. We really wanted to use it in something, and it worked out that we could use it in Poisoned Apple.”

“It’s bittersweet,” Bryce continued, “because she actually passed away maybe two months after she recorded it, and we probably wrote the songs maybe two months after she died. The first couple of times we played it, I would get really emotional. A lot of people think it’s from a movie or something. It’s really crazy how it all ties in at the end, and she is talking about how they always made it through."

"Poisoned Apple" just happens to be Bryce’s favorite track on the CD. “I think we were all pretty excited about that one. It’s funny, because when we were recording, that was one of our least favorites. It just wasn’t sounding right, and we weren’t able to get the guitars mixed right. When we had the violinist come in and record that part it just brought everything together.”

This finished product is much to celebrate but getting there can be a long and difficult process. “Recording is different than just writing a song, “said Bryce. “When a song starts out it’s usually on guitar or piano, after we all give our input the arranging begins. In the studio is where we get to add all the fun stuff. The best part of recording is trying new things and experimenting with sounds and noises, while watching songs evolve from words and acoustic guitar. The worst part would be playing to a click track and doing it twenty times.”

Now that the CD is out, Bryce talked about the goals of The Constellation Branch, “We would like to get out of Arizona, not that we hate it here, we just want to get our music out of Arizona. I feel like we are at this plateau where we need to get out of state to gain new fans. The CD can be purchased online and there are places where songs can be downloaded. We just want to get the music out to new listeners, and hopefully they will be inspired by it like we are.”


Self-released full length album entitled, The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass...



Meeting through a mutual friend, The Constellation Branch was formed by singer Jordan Cruz and guitarist Bryce Hill in the spring of 2006. The duo quickly wrote and recorded a few demos the following fall, and armed with these tracks, recruited drummer Stephen O’Sicky in January 2007. The trio went through 6 different bass players in as many months until they finally found bassist Aaron Motley. In July of 2007, The Constellation Branch was complete.

Taking over a year to complete, “The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass…” is the debut full length album from the Arizona indie rockers, The Constellation Branch. Recorded primarily in their friends Mom’s house, it features guest appearances by Poem (Matthew Gilbert), Chelsey Nelson (Yellow Minute) and Parker Morden and was produced by Mike Dwyer and James Mitchell.