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For fans of: Silversun Pickups, Birds of Tokyo, Smashing Pumpkins, 30 Seconds to Mars, Civil Twilight

 

I, like many of my generation, am a child of the Alternative (a.k.a. Grunge) movement. The emphasis for me was always on the disparity of sounds, the contrast of dynamic between deep and distorted electric riffage and the delicate strum of acoustic guitars. The yin and yang of musical undulation, the true touchstone of musical mastery is the ability to change gears. The Pixies were masters of movement. Nirvana, essentially their progeny, also knew how to shake the blanket to send a sound-wave soaring into space, then spiraling down into the loam. There are too many examples to list, but London-based rock-band Belasco definitely fits the description.

 

Transmuting, Belasco’s 2012 release, is atmospheric rock at its finest. From the first arpeggiated bars of, “Move like Water,” to the final chiming bends of, “Eyes,” the group guides you from apex to apex, adeptly rendering galvanic swells of sound in each song. Jagged distortion intertwines with spacey modulations, crashing drums and crushing basslines to create everything from blistering riffs to delicate whispers.  This record is compelling throughout, with no qualitative let-down as you progress through the material.

 

The group lists Smashing Pumpkins amongst their main influences, and there is a tangible parallel of sound between the two groups. The rhythm sections are the glue for both acts, their material is densely layered with guitar and boast wafting, melodic vocals. By this standard the group easily falls in line with contemporary acts like Silversun Pickups and Civil Twilight as well.

 

“Everyone,” the album’s second track, is a brilliant example of the Pumpkins/ Silversun sound. A pulsing distorted bassline begins the tune, soon joined by a rolling drumline and muted guitars. The track easily evokes the feeling of the Siamese Dream era Pumpkins.
 
The aggressive elements of the record are starkly contrasted by its quiet moments, with a fluid surreal quality often equated to psychedelia (another Pumpkins characteristic) in their slower songs. The tunes have movements, feeling like classical compositions passing themselves off as rock anthems. The lush layering of sounds on songs like, “Poor Man,” and, “Move Like Water,” put them in line with U2’s class of creating ambiance.

 

There is enough variation in tenor from track to track to make the album feel like a tastefully rendered tribute compilation. Vocalist Tim Brownlow can vacillate from being eerily reminiscent of Mark Lanegan to evoking an early 30 Seconds Jared Leto. That’s an impressive range on display, and certainly colors outside the lines enough to actively engage the ear as the album progresses. The change of timbre teases your attention to each individual tune, giving a unique listening experience from moment to moment.
 

 

The group gets anthemic often as well, with songs like, “Home,” and , “Empire,” sonically soaring with infectious melodies and electrifying, pulsing rhythms to groove to. This is a band destined to excite live audiences with a sound expertly crafted to flood arena sound-systems. Yet, songs like, “Who Do You Love,” and, “Taken,” begin with quiet and somber tones and ascend into anthemic uproar as well. “(Blanket),” and “(Rosa),” are the album’s folk-ier tunes, showing a flicker of bluesy influence in their sound as well. The group has an excellent feel for dynamic, and it’s evident on every instant of Transmuting.

 

Brimming with sweeping atmospheres, memorable melodies and boundless vitality, Transmuting is the type of record that will exist in a loop on your chosen music player for months. Infectious, hook-heavy and emotive, it’s the kind of record the Alt-rock generation was reared on. I’m hopeful it will inspire similar ardor in contemporary audiences. It certainly deserves to.

 

Belasco on Spotify

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