Article by Karla Harris
Late last August we hosted the UK premiere of 'Red', the first track to be taken from The Old Adage's debut album 'Cycles'. Like the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly, 'Red' was an indication that the Detroit-based outfit had once again, sonically evolved. From the gentle acoustic pop of their earliest workings, to the heavier, brasher pop/rock of the 'Matches' EP (which was largely borderline industrial influences), 'Cycles' now sees the band progress beyond their older material, embracing a sound that is alternative but popular, eclectic but accessible. Still familiar and identified as The Old Adage, but the focus has shifted onto the mood, the melody, the lyricism, the diversity.
'Get Loose' opens the band's 10-track labor of love and its introduction is almost sombre, slow tempo. All gentle buzzing synths, lazy synthetic drum beats and sedate male/female vocal harmonies accompany the opening lyrics, "Truth is I don't really know the truth...", before the track bursts into vibrant bouts of alternating tribal and cosmic synths, warrior cry female vocals, and lyrics that "circle in cycles" around family issues, youthfulness, the world at large, religion. This is one of many feelgood tracks on the album. 'Brother' makes a clunkier introduction, juggling synthetic and natural sounds in its production. The main melody is catchy pop with saccharine vocals against a backing of warped electronic samples and ethereal harmonies. Then there are tracks like the soulful and jazzy 'Twas The Fall', all snappy clicks and tiptoeing beats, and 'Real Word', a fantastic adrenaline building track to mark the middle of the album. It's a scrappy track full of fight, triumphant electronic arrangements, glitches and some great piano beats. This is one of the most diverse tracks on the album and is composed of a number of genres, moods and world sounds within its lovely layers.
'Dragon Breath' is a track I have a huge soft spot for, it's all woozy electric guitar riffs, dangerous electronics and fierce vocals. This is the biggest nod towards the 'Matches' EP era and also a little bit alt-metal and Atreyu in its driving rhythm and darkness. Which is great to hear considering the band are named after an Atreyu track. Penultimate track, 'Records In Our Room', takes the album to a cabaret Caribbean level and by this point, any assumption that you might have figured out the flow of the record is cast aside. This reminds me of what might happen if Malibu burst out of its liquid form into a person and started making music with The Dresden Dolls. 'Higher Places' brings the album to a close with a contemporary electronic pop sound where the vocals and soundscapes take it in turns to control the driver's seat and set the mood, before completing the bands cycle where they end in the way they began; sparse acoustic guitar strums and poignant DIY vocal distortion.
'Cycles' is an exhausting listen, like some of the best records are. Mimi Chavez' vocals are delightfully as versatile as the album's sonic arrangements. Its soundscapes seem to travel across all seven continents and across a vast ocean of genres, but, are blended with such precision that the traditional (and even classical) influences hidden within don't dictate that this is anything but original. 'Cycles' is out now but is largely a futuristic production. The Old Adage have created their own universe within 10 individualistic tracks. They've created an album that is more of an anthology. Of course, it crosses into societal themes, but it has a deep nostalgia and personal meaning that leaves the record somewhere between drawing a connection with its listener, and shrouding them in elusiveness.
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