Living; The: The Jungle Is Dark But Full Of Diamonds
You just know that any band featuring permanent members who provide guitars, keyboards, violin, viola, bass, drums, cello and vocals are going to be something a little different. Whether that ensures music of equal interest is never quite so assured. Thankfully, assured is a word that ably describes this debut full length release - The Jungle Is Dark But Full Of Diamonds - from Vancouver based The Living, with the interesting interwoven sounds resulting in chamber music with elements of jazz, rock, pop, funk and even the odd hint of world music. It should be a disaster, however in truth it is all rather wonderful. Imagine Muse without the bombastic histrionics and you won't be far away. Think Mr Bungle with less off-the-wallery, or Jackdaw4 without the sugary-bitter melodies and you'd be equally near. Close your eyes and picture all of that crashing together with lashings of grinning energy and skilfully honed talent and you'll be right in the middle of it.
Styles jump and jape from minute to minute, "We Are The Bubble, They Are The Prick" manically grooving through a ginormous bass line, a scything off-beat choked riff and gentle strings. Then add in female-male harmony vocals and handclaps and a muscular beat and poignant cello and.... And this is only one song! Dip into this album at almost any point and you'll stumble gleefully into a smorgasbord of oddly married delights, whether that be the drum thumping, Queen like piano'd romp of "Music Is Magic" where strings swoop and swirl in the background's foreground, or the almost "Kashmir" on strings and funk guitar of "Designer Bilndfold". The combination of voices from guitarist/keyboard player Mike Bell, violinist Elyse Jacobsen, violist John Kastelic and bassist David Spidel adds yet another flavour to the mix (cellist Doug Gorkoff and drummer Samuel Cartwright are the only non-singing The Living). However again, while this aspect (like all others) of The Living is laid on thick, they still somehow feel vital to the organised, melodic, challenging, joyous cacophony this band produce.
Things do slide off the rails slightly towards the end of the album, with an unnecessary thirty second gap either side of "Sneaky Patina", before the sound of electro-humming and what feels like piano strings being scraped introduces the throwaway string skirmish of "Out Of Office", resulting in an unfortunately indulgent ending to an album that up till that point skilfully avoided any such pitfalls (why do bands do this???).
Anyway, that aberration aside The Jungle Is Dark But Full Of Diamonds is a delight, maybe not a delight that will resonate with less adventurous listeners, but for those with more exotic tastes this is an odd journey you'll revel in. Oh and the digi-case, booklet and CD itself are rather beautifully designed and put together too!
3. Designer Blindfold
4. Maximum Gentleman
5. We are the Bubble, They are the Prick
6. Mister Feminister
8. Requiem for Bessie
9. Dream Runner
10. Music is Magic
11. Sneaky Patina
12. Out of Office
Added: April 17th 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Living on BandCamp
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