Four years on, London’s Rumour Cubes have finally made good on the promise shown on their debut EP, We Have Sound Houses Also. Not that The Narrow State was a throwaway, but it simply added three new songs to those found on the EP.
A lot has changed during that time: one guitarist has seemingly left (present only as a guest on one track), while another has joined. The band’s not-so-secret weapon of violin and viola is now rounded out by cornet, clarinet, cello, sax and harp. At its maximum density, the band now numbers sixteen, the most on a single track, nine. As expected, the result is a swirl of orchestral density that at times makes the album seem as much a work of modern composition as it is a work of post-rock. From this description, readers may conclude that Rumour Cubes sounds like Mono, but the two groups share only a love for orchestration. Mono continues to create walls of sound, while Rumour Cubes creates bright, accessible tracks, symbolized beautifully by Thomas Klippers’ cover art, reminiscent of the inside of a hot air balloon.
Opening track “Seven Year Glitch” best epitomizes this sound: starting with strings, the piece then builds gently to a roll rather than a rock (the rock will follow soon enough). Every element is given room to breathe; the breakdowns are simple transitions in which other instruments join the fray. As will be the case on numerous other tracks, the piece begs to be heard in an alternate acoustic version. The skeleton is already there, especially the reappearance of the main theme at 3:42. The promised rock emerges on “Hiyat”, whose first appearance was on the U.K. compilation A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters: Sixth Wave. 105 seconds pass before the track takes off with an instantly memorable bass riff and counter-balanced string lines.
So what’s it like when Rumour Cubes pulls out all the stops? “Strange Lines and Distances” is the album’s highlight: the only track to contain cello, one of two with saxophone, and one of three with cornet. When everyone plays at once, the result is exquisite; when everyone stops playing at once, the yearning kicks in; and I’m sure you know what happens next. A guaranteed crowd pleaser, “Strange Lines and Distances” will likely end up as a set closer or an encore. But “Research and Destroy” is a close second, with rapidly-advancing crescendos and a thrilling breakdown at 3:50. Those with quieter tastes are directed to the tender diptych “There Is A Crack In Everything/That’s How The Light Gets In”, separated by five tracks on the album, but gazing across the chasm with knowing eyes. Four years ago, we suspected that Rumour Cubes might have a classic full-length album in them; now we know it. (Richard Allen)