I’m a sucker for certain musical elements in prog. Your music could be absolutely terrible, but if you happen to include one or more of my prog turn-ons, then there’s a 99% chance that I’m going to like your music anyway. Bands with no vocals, bands that write music mostly with a 3-beat feel (or who use excessive triplet patterns), bands that create dense layers of poly-rhythms and bands that use arpeggios endlessly; these are the groups that I have an irrational affinity for. It’s a problem that I have no intention of fixing.
This being the case, I guess Baltimore’s Time Columns was already aware of my prog-vices, because these characteristics describe basically all of the songs on their EP, Sunriseinthesea (not that that’s a bad thing! It just means this review is most likely biased as hell).
The multi-instrumentalist duo (I’m still debating whether or not a duo can even be prog, I feel like the minimum number of people in a prog band has to be 3, with the preferable number being 11) creates their music using looping technology that, while popular in other genres, has seen limited integration in prog. Watch this video of Keller Williams (jump to around 4:50) demonstrating how he uses looping to create a full band of Keller Williams-es to support himself in a live setting in a very short amount of time:
I have to imagine Time Columns’ use of looping was born out of necessity. It has to be difficult to play your material live when your drummer is also one of your guitar players, and your other guitar player is also your keyboard player. I’ve been a fan of this technology for awhile, and I was pleased to hear that a prog band was using it so prominently.
Sunriseinthesea, strikes me as a strong first effort, and a good introduction for people who want to get into math rock without jumping directly into the mind-bogglingly technical deep end of the genre. That’s not to say that Time Columns isn’t technically talented. I’m only saying that their material doesn’t embrace the finger-contorting fretwork or calf-crushing double bass; the oh-my-god-how-is-he-doing-that side of the math rock spectrum. Instead, their sound is much more relaxed, and focuses on creating a solid, proggy groove for them to build off of, something which I suspect is a by-product of using loops so frequently.
The group could be diagnosed as having Andrew W.K. Syndrome, a common disease in which every song on a band’s album starts sounding the same. However, as a rule I will forgive bands of this infraction when it occurs on their first release, as I find it can take an album or two for a group to develop their full spectrum of sound outside of what they might be immediately comfortable with. Besides, much like Andrew W.K., I still like what I’m hearing, even if it doesn’t have a lot of variety to it.
Fans of Scale the Summit or Gordian Knot will find themselves enjoying Time Columns. The band will be touring in the very near future, and I know I personally plan on checking them out, even if it’s only to see how they pull off their live material. Check them out at http://timecolumns.bandcamp.com, like them on facebook, and you can follow them on twitter.