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Charmparticles: Alive In the Hot Spell

The Oregon threesome return from their 2004 EP success with a full album of adult pop, merging short songs typical of the Cranberries with the shoegaze style for which they were originally known.

Pamela Rooney's breathy high register vocal over two oscillating electric piano chords make up the simple but moving opener, "Black Braid". The Cranberries are brought very much to mind however in the second offering, "Gold Plated Shot". The band revert to the so-called shoegaze approach of Sigur Ros and kin for track 3 "The Magnificent Sky", a synthesis of 80s keyboard pop and 90s crashing guitar effects, from the Catherine Wheel songbook. We return to the Cranberries influence in "Rarest numbers", complete with the vocal hitches that made Dolores O'Riordan's voice so memorable.

The band make exceptionally fine use of layered sounds, reverb effects and sweet vocal harmonies, no more so than on track 5, Relapse, a quite beautiful song which is one of the highlights of the album, particularly the way it builds in volume and density while maintaining quite a heavy rhythm. Sarah Fitzgerald (guitar and keys) says of the band's intentions with this release "we simply gave every song what we felt it needed and never once tried to make them sound like Charmparticles we didn't want to be boxed in by what we had been". The result is a confident, well balanced release with an atmospheric spacey feel but without the constant wall of sound of which many bands of this genre and post-rock in particular seem to be fond.

The middle part of the album is notable for its more aggressive edge epitomised by the angry sounding guitar and buzzing bass in "Get your complex on". They are not afraid to back off and let open space speak as loudly as the trademark Nat Merrill big drums, for example in the gently pleading ballad, "A danger to your health", often accompanied by no more than an echoing pair of simple cascading guitar chords. The even more spacious and simple shoegaze piece, Kohii follows, although even this defies gravity and takes off into the galactic emptiness for its climax. The melodic sensibility is always at the core though, whatever the song style chosen the album should appeal to fans of Keane in particular.

Track Listing
1. Black Braid
2. Gold plated shot
3. The Magnificent Sky
4. Rarest numbers
5. Relapse
6. Battersea
7. Ablation Cascade
8. Quiet View
9. Get your complex on
10. A danger to your health
11. Kohii
12. Sea of Okhtosk

Added: May 9th 2008
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2213
Language: english

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Charmparticles: Alive In the Hot Spell
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-05-09 15:34:56
My Score:

Portland's Charmparticles narrowed themselves to a trio and took a step beyond so-called "shoe-gaze" status (think Cocteau Twins) with their full-length debut, Alive in the Hot Spell. A mesmerizing swirl of dreamy, sophisticated rock, the recently re-released album features a cornucopia of instruments (the traditional guitar, bass and drums, plus violin, toy piano, shakers, sleigh bells and electronic effects) and Pamela Rooney's ethereal voice that is as seductive as it is haunting.

Opening with the sparse "Black Braid," featuring Rooney's angelic, multi-layered voice, Alive in the Hot Spell glides on a higher plane, beginning with "Gold Plated Heart," which snaps with insistent power chords that ring out and build momentum. "Rarest Numbers," the album's best track, boasts a stunning crescendo that melds The Gathering, Nightwish and U2. Other songs, such as the almost all-instrumental "Ablation Cascade" and the soaring "Battersea," come close to matching the exhilaration of "Rarest Numbers," leaving listeners craving more. But sleepy cuts like "Kohii" and "Sea of Okhotsk" reveal a young band still drifting in its own atmospherics.

Alive in the Hot Spell is an album that lives up to its creators' precious little name.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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