Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just Announced: Grand Archives and Most Serene Republic


It can be easy, sometimes, to forget where you started. When the goal that you set out to create no longer carries any resemblance to the original plan, and the finished product is as much of a surprise as it is a completion. In a lot of ways that was how Keep in Mind Frankenstein came to be.

Singer-guitarist Mat Brooke had big plans for Grand Archives' sophomore album. The band had written a slew of new songs, and honed them during sound checks around the world. They were good to go. And when they entered the studio and the tapes started rolling?

“It sounded kind of… Like guys who don’t really play rock music trying to rock out,” confesses Mat.

Their record, it seems, had very different plans for how it wanted to sound. Except for “Dig That Crazy Grave,” a buoyant ditty redolent of Southern California and summer afternoons, all the material originally slated for the album wound up on the cutting room floor. Yet as the earlier songs fell away, new ones were composed to take their place. “And the record took on a new identity,” says Mat, “a little darker than the first album.”

Keep in Mind Frankenstein, like much of its predecessor, was crafted at Paradise Sound in Index, WA. “Index has one of the most haunted houses in America,” discloses Mat. One night, late, they ventured into the old mining town, and into the site of a notorious double suicide. It turns out they weren’t the first pilgrims. “It was insane. There were Bibles open on the bed, and flowers strewn everywhere. We all felt a little haunted that week.” The stately “Siren Echo Valley Pt. 1” and its lurching waltz-time sequel were hatched in the wake of those nocturnal antics.

Having enjoyed a fair amount of media attention before their debut album was even finished, Mat hopes the next stage of Grand Archives’ journey will be mellower. “All bands should be allowed to have the joy of being a new band. We’d like to come in under the radar on this record.” At least, that’s the plan. Plans sometimes change.

There have been countless records that begin with the same bombast as The Most Serene Republic’s …And The Ever Expanding Universe, but few have taken listeners down a path of such enriching, introspective discovery. Long masters at stimulating senses and stirring emotions, the Ontario-based band have never sounded this immediate and attainable.

The sonic density of their previous efforts has given way to more dynamic, engaging fare, as visceral as the most obviously cloying pop music but with a more scintillating head on its shoulders.

Hypersensitive and buoyed on by endearing melodrama in their heads, The Most Serene Republic remain a captivating force because they continue to wrestle with their existence (and ours) by conveying such tension and conflict in their extra-extraordinary music.

Seeking an external opinion they trusted, Lenssen, Jewett, vocalist/guitarist Emma Ditchburn, guitarists Nick Greaves and Sean Woolven, and bassist Simon Lukasewich ventured into a working relationship with noted engineer Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene, Super Furry Animals, etc.). As the first record not produced entirely by Lenssen, …And The Ever Expanding Universe marks a radical shift within the Republic’s methodology—a direction that, on paper any way, seems implausible for the Most Serene Republic.

With its amalgam of anthemic pop, electronica, ornate classical flourishes, and yes, some not-so-obvious nods to classic R&B, this is not the document of a band ingratiating itself for broader appeal. With new drummer Adam Balsam infusing their sound with an unexpectedly swinging stomp, The Most Serene Republic sound as challenging as ever. If the goal was to get middle-aged parents to understand and appreciate ..And The Ever Expanding Universe, then it’s going to take some awfully open-minded parents. “I would love to be able to communicate with the whole world one day but I’m pretty happy with the way things are going right now,” Lenssen admits. “If our music can take care of the few people who want to discover the world in a different light or do crazy things, I’m really happy to facilitate sending our message to those people.”

More information here.

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