When Our Flashes Sway

Absinthe Blind

Hammerhead Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I've never really been that big of a sonic noise music fan - the first time I heard the Cocteau Twins in college, they scared the hell out of me. Admittedly, this is a bit of hypocrisy from someone who once loved the sonic orgasm that was Napalm Death, but hey...

Then this group from Champaign, Illinois caught my attention courtesy of their record label - absinthe blind. This quartet produces sonic rock without going over the top, and - good Lord! - with a beat you can follow. Their debut album when our flashes sway is just a sign of things to come - and is damn near, but not quite, perfect.

Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Adam Fein could be seen as the centerpiece of this band, but in fact he's not. His vocals more often than not provide an important part of the texture that the music becomes. Instead, it is lead guitarist Tristan Wraight who steals the show in absinthe blind. He wisely chooses to let his guitar ring out without a mound of distortion or effects - the exception being the ebow, which is used brilliantly. Bassist Mike Zolfo and drummer Seth Fein are the two other keys to this band, providing a backbeat that keeps the basic songs in focus.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Most of the tracks on when our flashes sway segue into one another - and though occasionally it would be nice to hear a break between tracks, the flow from song to song seems very natural... even planned.

From the opening guitar notes of "Bigger Thomas" you can tell this is going to be an interesting trip. At parts seeming like the psychadelia that Pink Floyd wanted to create (without flashing the audio from left to right in the headphones), the Fein brothers and crew lock you into the journey from beginning to end. After a while, it feels so natural that you forget about following the track listing and just let it flow.

And although some tracks may seem long timing-wise (the longest, "Catharsis," clocks in at just over nine minutes), the songs themselves flow very quickly. Cuts like "Rabbit Girls," "The Day Is Over" and "This Room Red" stand out among the best.

In fact, there are only two problems with when our flashes sway. Only one track is at all weak - "Depressure/The Forces Unseen" just falls a bit flat. And, like so many other bands, they resort to a "hidden" track at the end of the disc - and it's a bit of a stretch. (To their credit, though, at least they don't make you wait 15 minutes or make you skip through 50 four-second tracks to get to it.)

The only "negative" about Absinthe Blind is that it does take a little bit of time to get used to their style - but if you're willing to invest a little time and effort to get into the groove, you'll find it worth it.

Absinthe Blind is a band with grand ambitions with no musical limits, as when our flashes sway proves - and is further proof that real alternative music is alive and well. I'll be looking forward to seeing what this band does in the next few years.

Rating: A-

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© 1998 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.