Abilene – Two Guns, Twin Arrows

Two Guns, Twin Arrows

Abilene isn’t really hardcore or emo-core or any other -core you can think of, but because critics like coming up with obnoxious terms for music, let’s – for now – call it trumpet-core. The band’s second full-length adds trumpet player Fred Erskine (of the band HiM) to the mix, and Erskine’s beautiful, drifting trumpet contrasts beautifully with the band’s otherwise intense, often angry and urgent blast of rock.

It’s the trumpet that really makes these songs unique, adding hints of jazz and world music, but trumpet aside, Abilene is a talented band. Alexander Dunham’s vocals are gruff and intense in a Fugazi sort of way, and the band’s intricate time signatures and melodic yet driving guitars are equal parts Rodan and Mineral. There’s a post-rock feeling to the rolling percussion and intricate guitar-work too. With several lengthy songs, the band clearly puts their emphasis into their stellar instrumentation.

The furious assault – blaring guitars nonetheless strummed slowly and screamed vocals – that start out the album with “Twisting the Trinity” may cause some confusion. The band is playing loud and angry, but slow, for a truly interesting approach. It gets moody at times, though, as the percussion comes booming in. It’s the trumpets that blare away on “Blanc Fixe,” but the band works the guitar line around the horn so effortlessly it sounds like a totally different instrument, giving the song a Spanish flare that only disappears when the trumpet vanishes and the spat-out vocals come in.

The guitars really shine – loud and gritty but at the band’s slow pace – on the almost pretty “Fitch,” and the angry, almost shouted vocal approach is used even more on the loud yet detailed “Fellini.” “Apache County” takes a more laid-back and subtle approach with fluid rhythms running through the entire song and the vocals less abrasive. “Phase Four” is a much better example of the band’s post-rock sound, with Dunham’s vocals taking on a kind of beat poetry feel. The trumpet is worked into the instrumentation more on that track and the closer, “Solidarity,” where now it’s the trumpet tracking the guitar instead of the other way around.

Members of Abilene have spent time in June of ’44, Hoover, Regulator Watts, Lustre King, Radio Flyer, and Chisel.Drill.Hammer, besides Erskine’s work in HiM. It’s odd to hear a band that works horns into their music so effortlessly, and at times the trumpet comes to dominate the song with Erskine’s brilliant playing, but while it may be the band’s unique hook, it’s not their only strength. This is very tight, very potent and urgent rock, and the trumpet makes it all the more exciting. Very good stuff.