“We Became Your Family When You Died” – ‘Bullets In Madison’

I thought I might delay my return in the hopes of my partner releasing his imminent [now exceedingly late, but understandably late] reviews onto Highly Evolved. With this week being our first official introduction to RMIT [Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology - and pardon me if the acronym's all wrong, everything in my head is a little convoluted at the moment] we’ve been thrust back into the educational circuit seemingly sooner than expected. Well, we knew we were going back sometime, it was either this or a deadbeat-job living off Centrelink-payments for the rest of our lives; Australian-readers will understand completely…

I feel a little drained, so again you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not up to my usual standard, or I’m lacking in ‘poeticism’ – I didn’t think my Philosophy 101 Tutorial would get as “deep-and-meaningful” as it did; not particularly pleasant on the eave of the weekend [nice arguments, though].

Despite this, my arrival in (BA) Creative Writing seems to have drawn the attention of all my missing Muses and brought them back to focus: I’ve been writing left, right and centre, so I thought I’d get something on the blog ASAP. I have an enormous thanks to give to ‘Bullets In Madison’s’, “We Became Your Family When You Died” – I’ve listened to this album over and over again, for two-straight days, and it’s helped start and finish perhaps one of my [yet to be proven, nevertheless-hoped] finest short-stories yet! So, if you happen to be reading this guys, I appreciate it even more than you can imagine…

Apparently sidetracked, we’ll get back to the music, shall we? I now feel obliged to introduce:

"We Became Your Family When You Died" - 'Bullets In Madison'

"We Became Your Family When You Died" - 'Bullets In Madison'

‘Bullets In Madison’ call themselves an indie-experimental band, hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, America – arguably, this is perhaps the first band Highly Evolved has taken an interest in from this particular area of the Americas, so I’m delighfully surprised by its eccentricities and musical-montage. “We Became Your Family When You Died” is a collaboration of mixed-instrumentation, a variation on style and composition, exploiting all ends of the instrument-spectrum. This year I have yet to review any albums of its similarity, but it shares a keen likeness to ‘Eluvium’, and the album “Similes”, which I’ll hopefully be reviewing in the week/s to come. ‘Bullets In Madison’ bring a fresh perspective to one of my favourite musical-genres, post-rock, with their use of brass and unorthdox percussion [that being the glockenspiel]. This is diluted in a sea of classic post-rock-esque vibes, like elec.guitar, distinctly offset by the use of acoustic-string [violin, cello, etc].

At close to an hour, this standard, feature-length album is sure to entertain – the average track revolves around five-minutes, predominantly six or seven, with a couple of fours and one just under: a total of ten, in all. Unlike the post-rock of such bands as ‘Mogwai’ – whose sole, redeeming feature is purely instrumental - ‘Bullets In Madison’ attach a wonderful selection of lyrics which are just as successfully vocalised as the seemingly-infinite soundscape surrounding them. These evoke a wide array of imagery, poetically wrought in all concepts of emotion; there are some particularly memorable tracks where the strings of violin and cello are so wonderfully accompanied by synth and vocals, that the partnership sends shivers down your spine: such instances as “St. Jude” [which I'll mention later].

‘Bullets In Madison’ admit that they have inspirational-ties to such bands as:

“… Broken Social Scene, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, and M83…”

Most impressive: the mention of one of my favourite bands, ‘Sigur Ros’ [pardon the lack of accentation]. Although the fundamental elements that ‘Sigur Ros’ maintain – those being ethereal qualities relatively unseen on mainstream – are somewhat muted within “We Became Your Family When You Died”, but the basis or foundation is obvious with their use of musical-bells and the glockenspiel. The violin in particular is a ‘Sigur Ros’-driven instrument which is the primary source of emotional-evocation, and also features heavily within “We Became Your Family When You Died” [I apologise in advance for the reiteration of the album-title, I'm so used to shortening it, or 'acronysing' it, but it's difficult to shorten, and the acronym is just as clumsy]…

Straight onto the opener: “Impossible Grave” – and it has to be one of the best opening-tracks for the year. Although it starts off somewhat predictably, with the typical guitar-percussion duo, the evolution into a post-rock-esque musical-framework is particularly interesting. With the introduction of waving-violin, the repetition of the track slowly but surely evolves into the production of an initially-unseen crescendo; building, building, building. When the percussion jolts up a gear, reinforcing-vocals and violin escalate the drama – lyrics yet unseen. At 3:05, we see a dramatic shift away from the original beginning, a lack of percussion, a rise in echo, with the distant sound of time-keeping sticks, and, of all things, handclapping:

I’m just going to go off on a seperate tangent for a moment on handclapping, because its a form of instrumentation that I’ve really undervalued; and this tangent-idea is thanks to that wonderful lecture, Robert, you gave us for Philosophy – you managed to amaze and confound at the same time, leaving some to infinitely-wonder in their seats, while letting the other half unenthusiastically-drool instead [their loss, really, I thought the lecture was fabulous!] As for the seperate-tangent on handclapping, I seem to have only mentioned it every now and again when the song or situation called for it; in all respects, I originally thought it overly-tacky, lacking body or purpose [I know, for instance, it's not very well-done in 'The XX', for use of a better example]. But “Impossible Grave” has achieved what I thought once to be, indeed, impossible, and I think it’s because it utilises handclapping in a mixture of expression – at the same time keeping beat, but also like the applause of a half-enthusiastic audience commending specific lyrical-notations or ideas. Strangely-beautiful, I thought I might just touch base with that – what a moment of clarity: short-lived, but what isn’t in this world?

Finally, as the violin comes into sharper focus, the veiled lyrics:

“… And it was done…”

… appear. I am only just able to make out the following lyrics:

“… gather around your impossible grave…” [as the one and only applause appears]

At the 4:48 mark, a brilliant intro; absolutely adore it.

I know I’m running short for time, and this review is probably too long as it is, but I thought I’d jump all the way down to the middle of the album, with “The Eclipse”, and its probably the most beautiful arrangement of synth and violin I have heard in a long time. The arduos rise and fall of violin, with is lengthened crests and troughs, is so wonderfully placed at the beginning, without any other musical hindrance, that we as the listener are lulled into inescapable pacification. With the introduction of vocals/lyrics, percussion, and ‘Sigur Ros’ ambient-guitar, again we see the use of the applause towards the final half of the song; it sounds like heavy rain, with much distortion. The best example of this song would shape it like a bell, with softness at beginning and end, and loudness in the middle.

“St. Jude” follows on from this, and again it follows the same routine of opening-violin/cello. Again, there are long, emotional shifts from note to note, outlining the soundscape to come for the other instruments. With the deeper addition of what I presume to be a double-bass at 1:10, this further dramatisation only escalates the tracks solemnity – but, again, much like “Impossible Grave”, it is destined for another form. As the arrival of piano helps emphasise and balance out the string, the deep bellow of subsonic synth and percussion transform “St. Jude” from acoustic into acoustic-electric. Because I can’t entirely make out the lyrics that accompany this, I will leave them left to be desired.

Overall, ‘Bullets In Madison’ have an uncanny ability to combine old and new, acoustic and electric, into ten thoroughly enjoyable tracks. The metamorphosis [you'll have to forgive me, but the urge to use Kafkaesque is killing me *see Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis' for further 'un-enlightening'] of its tracks from one form into another is composed in such a way where the usual predictability of “lyrics[1]-chorus-lyrics[2]-chorus” is almost totally destroyed. I know I’ve only sampled a small handful of tracks, but I’m sure you’ll all enjoy “We Became Your Family When You Died” as much as I did: it’s sure to send those Muses running to and fro at your beck and call. And now, I will finish…

Revier’s Pick: “St. Jude”

Stand-out Tracks: “Impossible Grave”, “Animals”, “The Eclipse”, “St. Jude”, “Requiem”

Rating: 4/5

Until when,

The Enantiomorphic God

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~ by enantiomorphicgod on March 6, 2010.

2 Responses to ““We Became Your Family When You Died” – ‘Bullets In Madison’”

  1. [...] ‘Eluvium’s’ “Similes” and ‘Bullets In Madison’s’ “We Became Your Family When You Died” aren’t having the desired effect I had originally anticipated. Deciding I would get back to [...]

  2. [...] bands to follow-up on would be the likes of ‘Bullets In Madison’ [more post-rock in vibe, though, but similar in string-instrumentation], and perhaps even [...]

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