thestringandreturn – Invisible City

Invisible City

To me, it seems such a shame that such moving music can cause such internal problems within a band. I say this because the first thing I learned about thestringandreturn (before I’d even listened to the disc, nonetheless) was that the band had recently broken up. (By recently, I mean that the post on announcing this hadn’t even been up for a full hour yet.) Ugh.

Disheartened, I popped in the CD, figuring that maybe I’d hear something in the mix or in the sound that would make some sense out of the band’s demise. The only thing I got out of that, though, was kicking myself for not knowing about this band sooner so I could have seen them live.

Invisible City is a very quiet disc, and while most of the arrangements are fairly simple (2 guitars, bass, drums), the music sounds very complex thanks to the deliberate and emotional delivery of the band. The tracks are vast soundscapes, alternating between softly lulling drones and powerful moments of quiet intensity.

Most of Invisible City is based around a more ‘clean-tone’ guitar sound. The guitar passages that do have some ‘crunch’ do so with a lot of restraint. I kept waiting for a swelling crash of guitars to come in as an obvious resolution to the build-up of a few of the songs, but more often than not, that wall of guitars never came. This adds to the ‘urgent’ feeling of the disc, as the few dirty guitar parts on the album really stand out as meaningful highlights. The vocals add a totally different dimension to the music, coming off like a dreamy Dave Grohl (think “Walking After You”) and turning parts of Invisible City into a very relaxing, almost meditative trance of voice and guitar.

“Flyweight” starts the disc with a circling guitar line that is perfectly coupled with a circling rhythm part. The guitar interaction is remarkable, eventually swelling to louder proportions (although “loud” is a relative term for thestringandreturn). The ‘guitar frenzy’ here is very controlled and well-executed, keeping the theme of the rest of the release. “Locked In” and “Lemon Slice” are intricately beautiful – quiet, yet as moving as any wall of guitars could ever be. “The Rut” can only be described as intense, and even that word doesn’t do the track much justice. “Every Penny” rolls along with a guitar sound that is eerily reminiscent of Sunny Day Real Estate’s “How It Feels To Be Something On,” while “No Good News” utilizes a louder guitar build-up that adds mountains of emotion to the song. “Picture Ends” is built around more excellent rhythm guitar interaction, with hushed vocals that accentuate the mood of the song better than any other on the disc. “Roundworm” closes out the disc with a glimpse into what Television might have sounded like if they’d have been addicted to downers – gentle, rolling rhythm lines lead the track through occasional echoing wails of lead guitar, finally winding down into the silence thestringandreturn originally came forth from.

It’s hard to comment on the individual tracks on Invisible City. They are technically and noticeably different, but the disc is something meant to be listened to in its entirety. Individually, tracks like “Flyweight” and “Picture Ends” are standouts, but they lose some of the emotion and vibe contained within the album as a whole. Considering the lengthy nature of the release (eight tracks, 56:48 running time), nothing here ever drags or gets stale.

This disc is amazing – the tracks are well written, and they’re arranged and performed with the perfect amount of restraint and emotion. For as descriptive and verbose as I always attempt to be, I cannot feasibly do Invisible City any amount of justice in writing. Simply put, this disc is a must-hear.