Sianvar EP

Written by: TL on 07/01/2014 22:29:48

On the recent Dance Gavin Dance album, guitarist Will Swan took to rapping among others the words "We started this sound from Sac town", finally breathing words of self-awareness into a funky, progressive post-hardcore style that has spread from his own band through fellow Sacramento outfit A Lot Like Birds over to out-of-town groups like Hail The Sun and Stolas. Despite Swan's somewhat defensive delivery of those lyrics however, he's shown no concerns with bringing bands similar to his own to light, producing and releasing Stolas self-titled debut of last year and now forming a new super-group featuring members of all four bands mentioned, whose eponymous debut EP "Sianvar" is one of the first 2014 releases to land interestingly on my review list.

Counting all members Sianvar features Swan's fellow guitarist Sergio Medina from Stolas, the rhythm section from ALLB in form of Joseph Arrington and Michael Littlefield on bass and drums and finally Hail The Sun singer Donovan Melero on clean vocals, which is the kind that all but completely dominates the project's first self-titled release. On paper this is a ridiculous line-up already when considering the relatively short but impressive track records of each member, and indeed, all it takes to sample the collective madness they're up to, is one listen to the opening of track two, "Sick Machine". Within the first minute each member has already delivered an hour's worth of notes individually, somehow managing to make it sound virtuous as opposed to completely chaotic.

If you're the kind to listen to bands like these, or to similar ones like The Mars Volta or The Fall Of Troy, with your eyes growing to a point of bursting and steam coming out of your ears while you joyously try to keep track of the flurry of notes that come streaming at you, then Sianvar has moments for you. Interestingly though, the sound is noticeably lighter than you could have expected, with no prominent screams or growls or particularly heavy instrumental passages, and similarly, the rhythm and tempos can be upbeat but they're hardly extreme in themselves. In a sense, Sianvar sounds like a funkier Circa Survive with inspirations from Hispanic music, especially courtesy of Melero's masterful vocal work which is so akin to Anthony Green in raspy, high pitched tone, so alike Tilian Pearson's winding melodies from when he was with Tides Of Man.

As opposed to Circa Survive however, "Sianvar" showcases little of that band's dramatic urgency, despite Melero's dependable efforts and despite the extremely dynamic arrangements orchestrated by his partners in crime. The problem simply is that the songs, as crazy technical as they are, rarely feel like more than playgrounds where the band members bounce their significant talents off each other, leaving them lastly in Melero's hands to come up with vocals for as best he can. There are some cool moments of course, for instance when "Sick Machine" breaks down into some more funky, chord-based parts, or in "Your Tongue Ties" where the off-kilter lead really reminds me of Mew's "Introducing Palace Players".

Apart from that particular guitar delicacy, my main takeaway from "Sianvar" is probably going to be the catchy "Is this worth getting off my chest?" refrain from "Chest Pressure", which tellingly is the most modest track on offer technically speaking. I'm not necessarily saying outright that "Sianvar" is complexity for its own sake, I'm just saying that its intricacy doesn't automatically translate to it also being engaging. An element of relatable emotion or urgency is something I think the band has yet to find their way down to, before the listeners will get that crucial feeling that something's truly at stake in the songs. Conclusively, I've seen quite a few online comments hoping this band has plenty of time to grow, but personally, I've preferred each member's separate material more and I can't help but to hope that Sianvar doesn't distract them too much from their other bands.


Download: Chest Pressure, Your Tongue Ties
For The Fans Of: Circa Survive, Hail The Sun, A Lot Like Birds, Dance Gavin Dance

Release Date 05.01.2014
Blue Swan Records

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