Oh Persephone, why’d you have to go and eat that pomegranate? Thanks to you, we suffer cold half the year and we struggle to get to the warmth. The dark undercurrent of the myth, along with the blood-red color of the juice, permeates this elegant EP, which represents a new timbre for Brooklyn duo Quarterly. On their debut album their sound was electric, the guitar the more menacing instrument. Now that the guitar strings have morphed into nylon, the cello has become the more foreboding partner.
The closest comparison is Rachel’s, the chamber band whose sound is inextricable from post-rock even if no one ever mistakes them for Mono. The compositions of Pomegranate draw from literary and political sources, displaying a keen intellect. “Sueño Americano,” is “an attempt to convey a feeling of being lost in one’s own country (while exploring another) in the days after the 2016 election,” a feeling that for many continues today. “Catherine Wheel” implies torture while being a joy to spin. Over and over, there’s beauty on the surface (thanks in great part to pristine mastering – well done, Colin Marston), but one can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right, that the musicians are writing a soundtrack to unease. The fruit is enticing, yet dangerous: “I only swallowed six seeds!” cries Persephone, echoing Adam and Eve before their Garden expulsion.
Such stories imply that there’s something wrong with winter, struggle, and darkness, that each is less preferable than its partner, which is viewed as an opposite. By creating a warm, folklike atmosphere, Quarterly underlines the appeal of what others reject. Christopher plays the guitar like a troubadour, albeit without words; Kristen plays the cello as if it were the new moon. Somehow they meet in the middle, the cello occasionally raising its head to the light while the guitar occasionally dips to the darkness; at these points of confluence they produce heirs.
With the exception of two slaps to one instrument (what did it do wrong?), the set lacks percussion. The universal timbres allow it to flow as a suite, like that of the months or seasons. Could it be that Persephone always wants to return to Demeter? Or might there be a moment, however briefly, when she longs for Hades, for the company of the dark? The question remains unanswered. The uneaten seeds fall to the ground. (Richard Allen)