It should be obvious that FOUR is SEIMS‘ fourth album, but it’s not that simple. SEIMS – originally a solo project – made a turn toward its current direction with the release of 3 and 3.1 a year and a half apart, eventually merged as 3 + 3.1. In these recordings, Simeon Bartholomew began to move beyond the electro-prog of his first two releases (guess what they are called!) to post-rock prog. The drama increased along with the instrumentation, most apparent on “Clarity,” the pounding closer of 3.1. One can hear the violin on that piece; throughout FOUR violin and trumpet round out the already full arrangement.
The video for “Elegance Over Confidence” is a fitting introduction to the latest incarnation, as individual performers are highlighted, from the highly energetic Bartholomew to the extremely unruffled drummer Chris Allison, to various friends on brass and strings, socially distanced but yearning to play together (which should happen soon). All told, ten persons contribute to this album, on harp, cello, viola, flugelhorn and more. We’ve always loved post-rock with extra elements. The track itself is rapid-fire, cinematic and intense. As mentioned in the press release, “Elegance Over Confidence” pays homage to 65dos, but it’s not the album’s only timbre. In fact, when one first presses play, one may wonder if they’ve loaded the proper disc. “The Mountain’s Lullaby” opens with the chamber sounds of sweet piano and strings, an overture that leads into the cello and guitar of the subsequent piece. As the credits indicate, connections to fellow Australian bands We Lost the Sea and sleepmakeswaves are more than coincidental.
The album concept is perfectly suited to a blend of genre influences. What began as a reflection of the Myers-Briggs inventory evolved into a commentary on “misconstrued conversations,” apparent in the titles “Shouting at a Brick Wall” and “Nuance Lost in Translation.” In the brief breakdown of “Showdown Without a Victim,” the calm orchestral voices have their say, only to be drowned out; but by the end, the melodic factors swim their way back to the surface. For a moment, the cycle of speech and reaction is broken by listening. The opposite trajectory unfolds in “Shouting at a Wall,” which begins in contemplation and explodes to cacophony. Actual voices surface only twice, on “Biting Tongues” and closer “The Mountain’s Scream,” the latter chant-like in timbre, sounding more like And So I Watch You From Afar. The implication is that voices once battling are now singing in unison: a vision we can only hope will one day become reality. (Richard Allen)