Solarshift

Absinthe Blind

Hammerhead Records, 1998

http://myspace.com/absintheblind

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/06/1999

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It's an old saying, but it's still very true.

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois's own Absinthe Blind are proof of this, as is their latest effort, Solarshift. While they have moved away from the richly layered sonic attack that made up their debut effort when our flashes sway, they have moved into a more pop-oriented vein - and while I do miss some of the layered sound, this is still very good.

The band - vocalist/guitarist Adam Fein, guitarist Tristan Wraight, bassist Mike Zolfo and drummer/backing vocalist Seth Fein - have not abandoned their alternative roots in the least; this is still an album that challenges the listener to keep up with the musical waves it throws at them. But where my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 when our flashes sway used layers of guitars to hook the listener, on Solarshift it's the vocals. Adam Fein has greatly improved in the last year as a singer, and it shows on this album.

The opening two tracks, "Now We Glide" (which seems to have a false start in the first five seconds of the track - was this intentional?) and "Place" are enough to lock you in for the entire album. However, I couldn't help but be thrown by the fact that Absinthe Blind's sound had changed, and it took me a little time (as well as a partial re-listen to when our flashes sway) to get comfortable with it. Even now, some seven listens into the disc, I don't know if I'm completely used to it yet.

The one challenge of Solarshift is that it requires more than just passive attention from the listener; some of the songs tend to blur together, making it hard to recognize just what track you're listening to. I noticed this happening between "Distant Song," "Shade Winter, Shade Spring" and "Not My Queen" - all good tracks themselves. But I don't like the idea that an album is passing me by and I'm not noticing it happening.

Absinthe Blind does take some chances by adding in one additional vocalist (Lynn Canfield) on "Fantasy Loss," a track that dissolves into the beautiful instrumental "Celestial". Also, hearing the use of violins and cellos is a nice touch - and one that is thankfully not overused.

Solarshift is an album that may well break Absinthe Blind into larger markets - that is, if those stations are willing to take a chance with them. (Face it, you don't hear the Cocteau Twins much on Chicago radio; I don't know how it is in the rest of the country.) And while this album does take some time to get used to, especially if you're familiar with the band's earlier work, it rightfully should be the album to make Absinthe Blind a major name in the alternative world.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hammerhead Records, and is used for informational purposes only.