Take Five: A lot of Reindeer, a little Soul and the smashing return of a former Pumpkin

Your Sweet Voice:

The Reindeer Section

“No egos. No bull****. Only the music and the songs.” So claims The Reindeer Section, a hodgepodge of various British Isle musicians (mostly Scottish) from such notorious bands as Belle and Sebastien, Idlewild, Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub and Snow Patrol. It’s a rather astonishing project, considering that the Glasgow “group” consists of 27 members, most of whom consider the band a side-project. Front man Gary Lightbody was impressed by the success of the first album (which was recorded in two weeks) and decided that a second release was necessary and imperative. The music is a subtle conflation of rock and folk, and, as evidenced on “Your Sweet Voice,” it is contemplative and strikingly beautiful. The mellow, acoustic combinations of piano and guitar perfectly match the atmosphere of simplistic, no-nonsense songwriting that Lightbody proliferates in his attempt to create the most pure musical form. He prefers to record live and has a very low tolerance for repeat recordings; in doing so he has created an irresistibility that pervades all the songs on the album.

That Which Wasn’t Said: Owen

Mike Kinsella, the only member of Owen, has spent too long paying his dues to the world of indie-rock. From “Cap’n Jazz” to “American Football,” this man’s guitar work has done enough to land him a place at center stage and he has flourished in the face of the opportunity. His voice is wonderfully subdued, with breathy clarity and a complete disregard for over-produced perfection. Yet, “That Which Wasn’t Said,” perhaps the most powerful song on his self-titled album, dispenses with any vocals in return for a minimalist approach to emotive songwriting. Kinsella layers dueling riffs reminiscent of the ever-so-slightly dynamic Phillip Glass piano music created in “Metamorphosis.” And while Owen might not be the source of the next big movement, his music embodies peacefulness, full of ethereal weightlessness and tranquility that remains elusive to most modern artists. It is the numbing repetition of simple melodies that makes the song, along with a keen sense of the limitations of language in the presence of instrumental speech.

Back 2 Life (a cappella):

Soul II Soul

Now, this song may not necessarily fall under the “lesser-known” headline. The original version conjures up early memories of the 1990’s: jock jams with heinous drum machine beats, thumping synthetic accompaniments and images of neon-clad dancers sporting leg warmers and triple wide laces in bright white Keds shoes. Nevertheless, the reduced version of “Back 2 Life,” which was featured on the 1998 movie Belly by acclaimed rap music video director, Hype Williams, presents an indescribably different and improved version of the song. Forget the old hook (“back to life, back to reality”) and replace it with a soulful, eerily percussive chorus of “however do you want me, however do you need me.” The harmonies stand in stark juxtaposition with complete silence; the blank rests in the song are equally as important as the tight vocalizing, which makes the transition from pure voices to voices with drum accompaniment that much more anticipated. After two minutes and 40 seconds of pure soul and interpolated silence, one can’t help but ask for a steady beat to ground the song in rhythm.

Blues for Percy Carey:

Count Bass D

In the tradition of intellectual rappers, Count Bass D has created a record that defies the conventional rap categorizations. His newest album, Dwight Spitz, is comprised of 25 short-lived songs that rely heavily on old record samples from acoustic blues and keyboard-based jazz and soul. He adds thick, old-school beats to the samples, as in “Blues for Percy Carey,” in which the jazzy melody in the background is tantamount to the “rhyme not fight” candidness of his lyrics. Count Bass D is much less interested in creating a cohesive song than in overwhelming the listener with rapid-fire sound-bytes. Despite its subtle brilliance and low key melodies, the Blues ends too quickly; the sub-two minute song is unfortunately not long enough.

Honestly: Zwan

Billy Corgan is back with a vengeance. After the breakup of The Smashing Pumpkins, Corgan continued to make music in more grassroots settings, playing small clubs and bars. He is joined by former Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, as well as Matt Sweeney from Chavez and bassist Dave Pajo from Flint. “Honestly,” the first single, shows promise for what lies ahead in the band’s future. Corgan seems to yearn for his pre-Siamese Dream years, where heavy handed guitars and sensory-overloading drums are prioritized over the overly introspective thought pieces that dominated Melancholy and The Infinite Sadness and Adore. With “Honestly,” Corgan wants to paint Zwan in a more pop-friendly light, but it seems as if he is unwilling to abandon his obsession with thoughtful rock.