I have long been, well, curious about local band Qurious, a sort of ambient dream-pop act. (And please forgive the pun. I couldn't help it!) When i caught them live a few months back, i picked up a copy of their debut CD. (Note -- this is their debut release, although they have a couple of self-released things they have been giving away on their BandCamp page.)
Okay, enough of the parenthetical asides. Let's move on to talk about the band, which is a two-piece act consisting of Mike Netland and Catherine Quesenberry. She is the vocalist, while he produces. As i gathered from watching them perform, both of them man the electronics.
And this is very electronic music despite the presence of the voice. Most of the sounds you will hear on this record come out of a synthesizer and/or laptop. I know that irritates some people, so be forewarned.
The record starts with a haze of drones, tinkling piano, and Quesenberry's wordless singing, all echoed in layers. Gaida sets the stage for the album. When that drone fades out, a new drone rises. Suddenly a spastic drum machine and wavering keys join the drone, and then her voice takes shape, singing more clearly here, her voice small and almost overwhelmed by the dense layers surrounding it. The song is called Wunderkammer and i am reminded of High Places, more in the tone and vulnerability of her voice than in the actual makeup of the musical haze. It is still a pretty good tune.
Rubies starts off with rain sounds, then a shuffling beat. It is the poppiest thing so far on this record, with sparkling keys in layers and Quesenberry's voice even clearer. The drums are a lovely big, booming sound. The song goes through an odd transition, the second half being almost Tangerine Dream-ish, just layers of synths sliding against one another over that echoed beat. A strange but interesting transition.
On Gears Quesenberry once again channels Mary Pearson, but here Netland also channels Robert Barber. The song consists of a high-pitched disaffected muttering, while the rhythms are a sparse programmed tribal beat, like natives in the jungle armed with primitive laptops... Based on that description, it could easily be a High Places tune, as that is kind of their shtick, but Qurious pull it in a slightly different direction, so that the tune is High Places-esque, but most distinctly Qurious. Either way, i like it.
On Submarine the beats are sparse and scattered, a vague thumping, while a whining keyboard layer soars over top. Quesenberry is echoed in layers, often really wailing away. The tune is moody, almost goth at times. I like the way the voice is layered here.
Qurious mix it up a bit with Rima. Drums chug lethargically while a guitar strums listlessly, and Quesenberry sings under a bit of fuzz while rain sticks surge in the background. Here, they are close to Devics, the guitar playing a western melody while she sings sultry and echoed. Nice.
Gold is more of a euro synthpop tune. The synth sounds are shiny and fully artificial here. This is the closest that Netland gets to The Knife, although Quesenberry's singing is simple and not at all like Karin Dreijer Andersson. However, as the song progresses, the synths overwhelm her voice, but not before it grows heavily mangled and stuttered, like the electronic nature of the song overwhelmed her very singing. It is a pretty cool transition.
PactolianIs a good ambient tune, sparse and electro, like something from early Tangerine Dream or Vangelis in the 1970s. And then finally the record ends with Termina. The rhythm is syncopated and her echoed voice just floats along. Eventually Netland brings in some shaking hip-hop percussion, and a really deep bass riff thrums in the background. This combines Tortoise, High Places, and A Tribe Called Quest, which is pretty cool if you think about it. At the end it gets really "World music" with Quesenberry her chanting nonsense sounds and the percussion just spiraling in layers as the voice echoes. It is a great end to the album.
Personally, i think that Qurious are doing some very interesting things. I want to see where they go with all of this. And to think, they are an Atlanta band! I definitely recommend this record.