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20 Watts Reviews Minus the Bear’s OMNI by JohnCassillo
May 4, 2010, 10:17 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: , , ,

Minus the Bear's OMNI is a successful electronic experiment

PREVIEW: VISIT Minus the Bear’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 16/20 Watts

Minus the Bear have always been associated with experimentation. The electronic trysts of their past records are some of the various aspects that allowed them to stand out in the oh-so-crowded indie rock scene of the past decade. But now, as they return with their first record since 2007, the landscape surrounding them has changed dramatically. No longer the novelty they appeared as in 2002, the band seems threatened with being relegated to a status of white noise. Good thing that they refuse to be labeled as such.

OMNI, the band’s fourth album, is as adventurous a front as the band has ever presented. Rather than produce electronic-laced indie rock, we see a much different turn– rock-laced electronic experimentation. The change is apparent from the first few bars of opener “My Time,” setting the tone for an album full of moody, synth-heavy bouts with emotion. Yes, guitars are present, especially for solo work on tracks like “Secret Country” and “Hold Me Down.” But for the most part, the sprawling chords splay themselves out behind dreamy keyboards and surprising uses of Auto-Tune (see “Summer Angel”).

Still, Minus the Bear do not surrender their identity with these adjustments. Rather, it appears they’ve cemented their appearance as shape-shifting trendsetters. OMNI’s tracks read like chapters of a book. Each one develops with stark differences from its predecessor, while also maintaining a running, cogent dialogue. Though the bright and open “Into the Mirror” sounds nothing like the layered and mysterious “The Thief,” somehow you can’t get to the former without the latter. It’s these building blocks that make OMNI as intriguing and engaging as it is.

Of course, OMNI is also not without some shortcomings which ultimately hold it back from its full potential. Lyrical content– while never phenomenal– takes a terribly “emo” turn at places. “Secret Country” becomes the album’s worst offender with lines like “take me out of this world/drown with me tonight.” At select points the spacious scenery becomes a detractor as well, as a song like “Excuses” drifts into the brokenhearted keyboard timbres of John Mayer.

Besides these transgressions however, there is nary a complaint about OMNI. Its multi-faceted, moody arrangement flows wildly and interestingly from start to finish. Who would’ve thought mixing Passion Pit-type club bangers, guitar squeals and breakdowns would yield such positive results? Apparently Minus the Bear.

-John Cassillo

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