I have a soft spot in my brain for instrumental groups. Prog artists are rarely great with words, and often they just end up sounding contrived, shallow, or foolish when they try to come up with lyrics that fit their ridiculous melodies. Instrumental groups are wise enough to forego these often pointless exercises, and I appreciate their ability to communicate without being explicit (as a wise robot once said, “Your lyrics lack subtlety, you can’t just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!”)
The Suite Unraveling is a good example of how you don’t need words in music. The group falls somewhere on the spectrum between jazz and prog, which can be a hard line to straddle without becoming boring as hell or overly pretentious (or most often, both). Typically bands in this predicament will get too comfortable in their own skin and forget that their music needs to go somewhere, instead of droning on for ten minutes on the same chord progression like a depressed Buddhist chant. The Suite Unraveling avoids this pit fall on their most recent album, Music for Robots, fairly well. While I’d be lying if I told you that these songs rush from phrase to phrase, you will never wonder when the band is going to get over themselves and move on to the next point they’re trying to make. The vibe the album creates is methodical but energized, and even on my first listen I found myself really enjoying what my ear holes were witnessing.
The first comparisons I drew in my mind listening to Music for Robots were to the albums King Crimson put out between In the Court of the Crimson King and Red, as well as some of the less frantic Mahavishnu Orchestra selections. All of these bands take a “we’ll get there when we get there” approach to their songs that I find extremely listenable, though I know others don’t share this view. None of this is music to dance, headbang, skank, or freak out to, but it’s not music to zone out to either. In each song there’s a lot going on at any given moment, yet none of it ever happens in an ADHD sort of way where everything becomes random and disjointed, and substance gets lost in a flurry of poly-rhythms, prime numbers and dissonance. One idea clearly follows another, and instead of trying to squish and trim it’s material the band takes it’s time exploring each moment they create before moving on to the next.
It’s not music that will appeal to everyone immediately, but I really enjoyed listening to Music for Robots. As I said before, if you like early King Crimson but want something less sinister, or if you like Mahvishnu Orchestra but desire a little less aural masturbation (note: Obviously I’m still a huge fan of aural masturbation!) then you very well might enjoy The Suite Unraveling.
Check them out at http://www.suiteunraveling.blogspot.com/