Independent release, 2011
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/17/2012
Answer: Case In Theory.
Question: What might Explosions In The Sky sound like if they started making three-minute vocal songs rather than sidelong twin-guitar symphonies?
Bottom line thus established, let’s delve deeper.
In Cinematic, San Jose, California’s Case In Theory—Tadeo Ramirez (guitar), Jamin Bracken (drums), Ben Everett (bass) and lead vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Posadas—have delivered an album that lives up to its title. These are epic, expansive songs featuring interlocking, evocative twin guitars and an echo-laden hugeness to their aural vision. Posadas’ vocals are crisp and clear but convey a sense of urgency that fuels the tension in the music.
Despite the concise nature of most of these 11 tracks—only one is over four minutes, and three clock in under 3:00—and the lack of a clear lyrical theme, it feels like there is a continuous thread running through the entire album, a sort of evolving musical (if not lyrical) narrative. The instrumental trio “Mavericks” (the album opener), “Mavericks III” (track seven) and “Mavericks IV” (the closer) might not include any lyrics, but musically they’re of a piece with each other and the rest of the disc: restless, searching explorations that never lose a sense of drive and purpose.
Around and about the musical skeleton formed by the above three tracks, Case In Theory make their case with driving vocal tunes like “The Night” and “Run Like Hell,” lilting, languid numbers like “The Day,” and hard/soft dichotomies like “Cinematic” and “With Open Eyes.” At times, the frenetic dynamics of tunes like “Righteous Path” threaten to drive these tunes off the rails, but with Posadas’ voice as the anchor, they manage to come back around and rediscover the core of each song.
The group’s first full full-length album after two EPs, Cinematic showcases a band that understands dynamics and how to balance overarching musical ambition with attention to melody and structure. While the album has a progressive feel in places, the tunes are tight and full of urgency. Based on this album, Case In Theory are a band on an upward arc; I’ll look forward to seeing where that arc leads, and you should too.