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The Ocular Concern: Sister Cities

Glenn Astarita By

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Sister Cities is entrancingly concocted by this Portland, OR. band led by keyboardist Andrew Oliver and guitarist Dan Duval. The primary focal point is the five-part "Sister Cities Suite," abetted by a three-piece strings section, where the musicians frame the inspiring factors of a globalized 21st century, somehow affiliated with, or corresponding to the names of Portland's sister cities on a worldwide basis. Regardless, the album hovers very close to masterpiece-like proportions. There is no filler material as the program seizes your attention from start to finish.

The "Sister Cities Suite" is a harmonious synthesis of jazz, Middle-Eastern undertones and progressive rock modalities, snugly wrapped into an interconnected group-centric sound. Burgeoning with sinuously integrated dynamics, the strings section enlarges the acoustic-electric soundscape, along with the tango element tendered by bandoneon performer Alex Krebbs. Moreover, the ensemble's flair for morphing tuneful riffs and choruses into the big picture is simply an added bonus, as the strings section frequently assimilates with the core unit in symbiotic fashion. The suite is also dappled with colorific and judiciously enacted electronics effects. Here, the musicians render odd-metered detours, hummable ostinato motifs and a recurring inference to Frank Zappa via a blithe and tricky unison vamp, radiating into a reverse-engineered hook.

Certain movements allude to Tango-rock, smoothly ingrained within a hip, jazz element amid regal choruses and the group's expressive soloing sojourns. Drummer Stephen Pancerev's punchy backbeats outline a methodical Indie-rock theme-building jaunt on the final suite movement, "The Island Milonga." And the piece "The Eclectic Piano," offers a whimsical ostinato motif, sparked by vibraphonist Nathan Beck and expanded by Lee Elderton's melodic and spiraling clarinet solo.

Among other positive facets, Duval and Oliver shine as gifted composers, possessing deep insights into various genres and styles. And even though it's early in the year, Sister Cities should conceivably find its way on a multitude of best-of lists for 2014, depending on widespread exposure and perhaps some recurring airplay on the appropriate college and satellite stations.

Track Listing: Oxygen Lake; Sister Cities Suite: Sister Cities, Portland In Reverse, Ghost Town City Council, The Island Milonga; The Ocular Concern; Lafayette; The Eclectic Piano; William S. Burroughs.

Personnel: Dan Duval: electric guitar, toy piano; Andrew Oliver: electric piano, percussion; Stephen Pancerev: drums; Lee Elderton: clarinet; Nathan Beck: vibraphone, Mbira (4,8); Erin Furbee: violin (2-5), Brian Quincey: viola (2-5); Justin Kagan: cello (2-5); Alex Krebs: bandoneon (2-5).

Title: Sister Cities | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: PJCE Records


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