Sunday, May 4, 2014

Album Review: BALBEC - Two Sides To Every Story - Impressive Sonic Art Rock Time Machine - Stream 17 track Album

ALBUM REVIEW:  Balbec - "Two Sides to Every Story"

It is rare that you push play on an album comprised of 17 tracks by a band you have never heard before and you are unable to walk away. This is exactly what occurred tonight when Balbec's sonic maze hit my ears. Balbec (as I am learning) are a 5 piece indie rock band from Paris, France who have 2 previous albums under their collective belt. Two Sides To Every Story is their third and most ambitious project to date released in September of 2013. It is a double CD, two mini albums really, one entitled Myth of Truth and the other Truth of Myth. Superbly produced by Ryan Morey and Alex Mazarguil, who have worked with Arcade Fire and Gentle Republic, Two Sides to Every Story blends elements of indie rock, art rock, proto punk, and progressive rock into a sound that is ever changing and folding in on itself. As I listened, I thought of many other artists like At the Drive In, The Wedding Present, Thao and The Get Down Stay Down, Pixies, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, System of the Down and even Curved Air. As a concept album, Two Sides to Every Story plays like a post punk art rock cabaret with progressive rock tendencies. It is stylistically kind of all over the place but it all works. It feels like it has a story arc with dozen's of musical emotions. In most songs, lead vocalist Isabelle's more clean vocal style is offset by Gabriel's (on CD 1) pouty almost glammish attack and Stephane's indie wail (on CD 2). The musicianship is superb and the music follows it's own rules. The power on this project is matched by the tender moments.

First tracks of MYTH OF TRUTH and TRUTH OF MYTH - Echoes of A Dead Heart and Architecture of Faith are for me, the signature pieces of the album. Both possess an avant-garde approach and appeals to my sense of adventure and my fondness of progressive indie rock. All the other tracks also shine. Here are some of the ones that, for me, shine the brightest:

I Turn My Face to You Baal is a big dynamic indie rocker with vocal and musical explosions throughout. Isabelle's and Gabriel's vocal blend is powerfully beautiful. Love the heavy handed drumming as well.

Latitudes and Longitudes trades tender moments with raw proto punk sounds. Whispers to screams.

Crestfallen is raw and organic. It feels like a live performance at a house show.

There is A Shine has a late 60's garden rock quality with a psychedelic tinged jam at the end which transports you to a flowery past.

Ready To Be King and Drastic with their bendy dissonance and indie feel had me thinking of a more proggy Yuck and Sonic Youth a bit for some reason. Love the sound on these songs.

Analog almost feels like many musical interludes strung together to form a trancey vibe until it soars in the end. There is something edgy and random in it's tone as if were a mellow System of the Down song.

Herd by the Horns feels like the love letter on this project. It feels bittersweet and lovely. The dramatic build is simply stirring and gave me chills. One of my favs on this project.

 Helpless doesn't really sound like a Pixies song but the guitar work made me think of Joey Santiago. I absolutely love the crazy path the music takes. It feels like a proto punk hippie song to me. Love it.

Cathedrals starts with a lovely dual vox bathed in a distant staccato guitar line and then has dreamy dynamic diversions galore.

In "Two Sides To Every Story", Balbec has crafted a must have for any music collector who values music that bridges the gap between experimental and indie rock. I love the almost indefinable sound that brings me back to that fertile art rock / proto punk period circa 1968 to 1979. I also especially love the girl / guy vox as it give the songs a particular emotional vibe. There is so much varied musical DNA contained in these songs (from so many genres and eras) that it feels like you are glimpsing into the past as well as the present. A sonic time machine for the ages.

Robb Donker

You can stream this Concept Album at Balbec's Official Site HERE

If you love this album or any others we cover here at American Pancake, we encourage you to support the bands with your love and support (and even purchase their records) so they can continue to create art for a long time.

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