Starting a post-rock band in 2012 seems as counter-intuitive as opening a new record store, but we’ve seen a resurgence in the latter, so hopefully we’ll see one in the former. Baltimore’s dedleaves is brave to enter these waters, boasting a more progressive rock sound than many of its contemporaries. The blend works because fans of both genres have been a bit starved lately, and now they get to hear both in one place.
Instrumental music often inspires unusual titles, and the two-minute opener, “God?” is no exception (although it’s a couple dozen words shorter than the titles of other post-rock songs). The most obvious interpretation is “God, are you there?”, but it’s fun to imagine others: ”Is this the sound of God?” or “God? Would you mind giving our band a hand?” Little more than scales and wandering electronics, the track gives little indication of the sounds that are to follow. But when the track – essentially a long intro – gives way to “Something Other Than Dying”, the band demonstrates its capabilities. One guitar shreds while the other keeps the melody; the drums and bass keep pace. But then, swiftly, a breakdown with much thicker bass and synthesized sounds (although no synth is credited), and it’s on to Section Two before two minutes have passed. A return to the opening passage lets the listeners know that the band has a framework in mind, then a repetition of the breakdown and some quieter modulations. This may sound a bit formulaic, but the variety is found within rather than without. The lead guitarist seems to be enjoying improvising, but never wanders too far afield. The sound is slightly reminiscent of bands like You May Die In The Desert and (early) Gifts from Enola – melodic, with a tinge of heavier influence.
The short track “Half Graveyards” is one of the album’s best, compact and without repetition. With only 2:49 to work with, the band has to get right to the point, and it does, with a short intro, a quick introduction to the main motif, riffs on the motif and a light breakdown from which the song never rises. ”I Second That Notion” is a bit less successful, seeming more like a stray section of a longer song. The bulk of the album, however, is comprised of five-minute tracks that follow the template of the second. The “title” track, “Deadleaves”, contains some of the strongest ideas, including the melancholic passage beginning at 1:57. Unfortunately, the best part of the track is the last 12 seconds, just not long enough to linger.
Will the band break through? It’s a hard question to answer. In order to do so, dedleaves will need to develop a more distinctive identity so as not to be compared to other bands. A showstopper tune will also go a long way. The closest here is “Evergreen Trail”, which includes a powerful (but all too brief) bass showcase and a headbanging sequence (shades of Russian Circles), but ends in a bizarre fade. It’s great to see post-rock edging toward the five-minute mark, but the best ideas need more fleshing out. When something’s good, it’s worth repeating, and the pulse wants to beat faster for more than a minute at a time. The 12-note breakdown in “No Time For Elevators”, for example, would sound incredible if churning metal rhythms repeated the quiet melody en masse. dedleaves has some work left to do, but the band has all the raw material it needs to make a push. Live shows will probably go a long way in establishing the band’s direction. But for now, welcome; we’re glad you joined us. (Richard Allen)