Review: The Autumn Project “Fable” CD

This is a re-release of The Autumn Project's debut CD recorded back in 2003. I'm not familiar with this trio, but here they use guitar, baritone guitar, drums, and keyboards to create often lengthy instrumental compositions that center around that shimmery sort of droning style that seems to have been getting more and more popular as of late, so if you've ever heard Explosions in the Sky or any of that sort of thing you'll have a pretty clear idea of what this group seems to be shooting for in the long run. I certainly enjoy many of the flowing melodies and restrained abstract passages that the band is dealing with here, though on some level I can't help but view it as a bit unoriginal or, on this particular outing (since I haven't heard any of their more recent work), underdeveloped in its standard builds from ambient swells and restrained clean passages to sudden outbursts of distortion. I say that in large part because there's something about the recording that doesn't seem to feel fleshed out enough. Part of that might be due to their reliance on baritone guitar rather than bass, but something just feels too thin somewhere along the line. A lot of it's the percussion actually, and I can never tell if I think they're utilizing a really good drum machine or live percussion that lacks the natural warmth and resonance that it really needs to fill its space (I think it's the latter). Most of the clean guitars sound pretty dead on in terms of lush texture and vibrancy, but like the drums the distorted guitars always sound too thin to me, and that really deadens the blow when they switch over from the clean passages. From a songwriting standpoint there are a couple of unexpected moments that kind of hit on a weird indie rock meets Coldplay kind of vibe ("Right/Left Thinktank") that doesn't really do much for me in an instrumental setting, but "The Dust Bowl Rose Again" changes things up by introducing some acoustic guitars over faint ambient swells for a more organic sense of contrast, and I actually really enjoy that a lot. And closer "How to Iron the Devil's Cloak" is a solid 10+ minute lesson in the subtleties of dynamics that certainly points to bigger and better things for the band as well, where they tend to thicken out the distorted guitars a little more and make strong use of adding/removing layers to create a sense of urgency. The layout keeps it very minimal with just a little bit of text and some blurred/softened abstract imagery or sketches with lots of blank white space. That's about all there is to it, though I'll point out that the cover art looks a little nicer than anything else. In the end this trio certainly has some promise, but I can't really say this disc feels like it was all that worthy of a reissue, as I'd guess they're a stronger band now and this material probably isn't really doing anything to properly represent where the band is at present. I definitely enjoy a good chunk of this material, but the lengthy running time and generally standard delivery leaves me a little bored by the time the record final draws to a close. Were the recording stronger I'd probably be able to appreciate their stance much easier, but... instead I'll just be curious to hear their new material to see how things have developed since this merely competent debut.

[Imagine It]
Running time - 59:55, Tracks: 10
[Notable tracks: Of Memoriam, The Dust Bowl Rose Again, How to Iron the Devil's Cloak]
Imagine It Records -