June 1, 2003
ESTER DRANG [I]INFINITE KEYS[/I] REVIEW
Infinite Keys, the second full-length album by Ester Drang, is a complex, layered, thirty-nine minute soundscape of nu-orchestral rock. Violins sigh, guitars twang, cymbals chime, robots go beep, all with the aspiration of surging and fading itself into the semblance of tragic beauty and good tunes. But excessive details provide the musical equivalent to a blob. Infinite Keys sounds more tin and tedious than beautiful.
The album begins with "The Temple Mount", a moody swell of violin crescendos, vibraphone twinkles, and minor feedback squeals while lethargic drums hold the tempo down. It sounds off key at moments. The singers un-poetic, whiney inflections make it even more difficult. The song seems overdone, the melody is lost under all the layers. The song "Oceans of You" is slightly more discernable but suffering the same ailments. The ditty is spoiled by a sporadic tumble of vocals, guitars, and drums. Vocal inflections reach potency when the singer mentions "existence". "If They Only Knew" may be the album's only example of discipline. It avoids the reckless convergence of off-tune instruments. An acoustic guitar strums over soft whales of a violin while a two touch tune is tapped on a piano. The song respects nu-rock ambitions and sustains a lethargic pep. It is not a great song, but its an acceptable one.
I can envision a moment when Ester Drang's Infinite Keys might be appropriate. In a bar with black walls, a crowd of exuberant drunks finish their sixth and realize they have run out of money. Quiet and sleepy-eyed, their descent begins. Its time to go home but no one can move. Then the band steps on the dark stage, the lights stay out. The slouching, sombre band members begin to play, swaying over the feeble crowd. Sobriety becomes poignant.
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