A New Dawn Fades – I See the Nightbirds

A New Dawn Fades
I See the Nightbirds

Instrumental duo A New Dawn Fades doesn’t sound like Joy Division, despite the band name. The tracks on I See the Nightbirds range from June of 44 math-rock to Letter E subtlety.

Most of the music consists of just guitar and drums. When first listening to it, I didn’t know that the band had only two members and didn’t notice the lack of bass or singing. On “Glories of Summer Camps Past” the music starts and ends furiously but its middle section just drifts along with some skilled, inflected beats backing a few guitar notes. In the hands of lesser musicians a passage like this would have quickly become boring but a New Dawn Fades knows how to introduce enough small variations to keep you involved.

On tracks like “Internet vs. Industry, Internet Wins Every Time” the guitar has been replaced with a keyboard and the drums have an echo to fill the space. It’s a short track, as are a few others, and that’s probably because the band knows better than to wear out its welcome with silly repetition. Opener “No Experts On Big Things” could easily be a Mercury Program cut. Its melodic “choruses” show the same understated guitar virtuosity that Mercury Program and Aerial M’s Dave Pajo give us. Clean guitar with a few well chosen notes — the recipe that goes against a lot of math rock, where the quantity of sound can outweigh the quality of note choice.

“He Carried A Whip In His Trotter” has a quietly modulated synth foundation overlaid with some interesting bell-like percussion and e-bowed guitar. That’s all there is to it, but it sounds full, and its mix of sadness and hope make it soundtrack material. Title track “I See the Nightbirds” has a similar guitar approach to that on “No Experts,” where the emphasis during the “verses” emphasize note choice and timing. It revs up here and there and it finishes the way “Summer Camps Past” does — going out with a bang.

The record ends with “Neornithes Returns.” Its acoustic guitar and strings set it apart from the other tracks sonically but not thematically. A New Dawn Fades represents the sound of rock musicians who realized that you can say as much with orchestrated instrumentals as you can with a pounding sonic assault.