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Clouds on Strings: Pomology

One of the most beloved trademarks of progressive rock is its eccentric, sometimes fantastical concepts. Rather than focus on simple, accessible topics, prog usually challenges its listeners to explore complex narratives and themes. Or, in the case of Pomology, the newest EP by Clouds On Strings, the emphasis is on fruits (specifically, on apples, bananas, kiwi, and grapefruits). While this may sound a bit silly and pointless on the surface, the music itself is fun, intricate, and quite adventurous. Although about half of the album is kind of a waste of time (more on that later), overall, this is a brilliantly original and bold record.

Situated in Chico, California, Clouds on Strings is a quintet with outlandish ideas and wonderful musicianship. While the group cites Chick Corea, King Crimson, and My Morning Jacket as influences, it's the Frank Zappa-esque mixture of superficial humor and staggering technique that's at the core of Pomology. Granted, the music never gets that crazy, but the spirit of records like We're Only in it for the Money and Uncle Meat is definitely there. Clouds on Strings excels at crafting catchy riffs, enthralling counterpoint, and a welcoming atmosphere.

The albumbegins with a thirty minute "Start Menu" that, well, gets old very fast. Basically, the same music repeats every thirty seconds while the group invites the listener to "press next to begin." They do this about sixty times. According to the band, this is supposed to be reminiscent of a DVD start menu, and although "the track gives some insight into the band's quirky state of mind, it is not a truly musical part of the album and can be skipped without sacrificing anything…" Now, while the unexpectedness of the different voices is amusing (especially the references to South Park, Star Wars, and Chuck Testa), this track begs a few questions: does the band actually think anyone will listen until the end? If not, why bother making it so long? Finally, why not shorten the track greatly and either make the EP shorter or use the remaining, say, twenty-five minutes for more music? In any case, it's a worthwhile innovation the first time you hear it, but afterward, it becomes wholly useless, which is truly a shame considering that it makes up ˝ of the album.

Fortunately, the remaining songs are fantastic. "Apple" opens with guitar, keys, and strings riffing off of each other. The way the melodies (both vocally and instrumentally) intertwine and fluctuate makes the track feel like a more poppy Gentle Giant tune. After a grandiose opening, a brief, hypnotic repetition of strings brings Camel's The Snow Goose to mind momentarily before utilizing a punkish aesthetic for the rest of the piece (akin to Emanuel & the Fear's wonderful debut, Listen). With "Kiwi," Clouds on Strings aim for more poignant and dreamy songwriting, which results in a fairly moving track. The closing jam is phenomenally majestic, too. Pomology closes with "Grapefruit," which is centered on a delightful piano motif. It is a dynamic and rhythmic marvel; its sections aren't too individualized, but there are definitely distinct movements nonetheless, and they flow together effortlessly.

Pomology is ˝ incredible and ˝ repetitive novelty. Again, the introduction is quite clever in concept and execution (initially), but it wears out its welcome way before it's over (which the band seems to fully acknowledge, so its duration is a mystery to all). The second half of the EP is an absolute joy; it represents a perfect blend of influence and originality, and any fan of prog/pop/punk should love it. Let's just hope that in the future, Clouds on Strings devote more time to their talent and less to their jokes.

Track Listing
1) Start Menu
2) Apple
3) Banana
4) Kiwi
5) Grapefruit

Added: February 28th 2012
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2762
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Clouds on Strings: Pomology
Posted by Mitchell Grenke on 2012-02-29 00:02:15
My Score:

Oh, and the reason it is so long is to further resemble an actual menu. You can let it run without worrying about missing the beginning of the album.

Clouds on Strings: Pomology
Posted by Mitchell Grenke on 2012-02-29 00:00:39
My Score:

The point of Start Menu is not necessarily to be a song, but rather an actual start menu. When they say press next to begin, they mean it.
It took me a while to get this, but it blew my mind. Music actually having meaning? Ridiculous!

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