Once We Were "Contra" 2xCDPosted on Thursday, February 8th, 2007 @ 8:51am » permalink
Well, it seems I once again have Avi from It's a Trap! to thank for kindly introducing me to yet another amazing Scandinavian act that I had never heard of before. This time it's Once We Were, from Sweden, and what I believe is their debut full-length, "Contra", a double-CD released by Tender Version. The discs are labeled simply "A" (recorded in the summer of 2005) and "B" (recorded in the spring of 2006), housed in a slim yet sleek digpack with full-color printing and a glossy finish. Disc "A" contains six tracks in just under a half-hour and runs the gamut from gorgeous melodies and shimmering clean guitars to thicker, grittier tones – as well as faint smatterings of keyboards and other eclectic add-ons that aren't as familiar to these ears. The bulk of the material is of the more laidback variety, creating an odd synergy between bright, fluid musicality and a more somber atmospheric undercurrent. Vaguely "heavier" (though certainly noisier) passages really only creep into "Cut Corners" to provide a significant shift in dynamics midway through the disc, while restrained vocals make a surprise appearance towards the latter chunk of closer "By Number and Skill" and amplify the overall feeling of the track. The recording is crisp and clear, allotting ample breathing room for all of the instrumentation, which helps to highlight all of the interaction between dual guitar lines and the bass runs – not to mention accentuating the general warmth and tonality of the band's aural aesthetic. The same can be said for disc "B" (as with the fact that its closing track, "It All Came Down", is the sole provider of vocals), which contains another six tracks and another half-hour's worth of music, though of the more experimentally structured persuasion. Gorgeous acoustic guitars present themselves on occasion, while the percussive work is more textural and to some extent abstract – as are many of the guitar parts, which can be built using layered repetitive loops and such. There's somewhat of a denser and more resonant reverb to the effects as well, which makes for especially smooth, droning low-end. The crazy thing is that I actually find the compositions on disc "B" to feel somehow more moving and emotional. I wouldn't have expected such, but these less conventional tracks are truly mesmerizing – an impressive feat, indeed. What can I say? This is just awesome, awesome work. Certainly recommended.
Please show your support and pick up the album for yourself if you enjoy the tracks. It's a Trap has the band's work for sale in both tangible (always preferred around these parts) and digital (if you must) formats, so there's no excuse: