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Extra Life - Secular Works CD (album) cover


Extra Life



4.00 | 7 ratings

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4 stars Brooklyn's avant-garde music scene has been booming as of late. The city has given birth to bands as diverse as Behold ... the Arctopus, Dirty Projectors, Zs, Extra Life, Time of Orchids, and Grizzly Bear. Kayo Dot's recent relocation to the borough has only added to the music palette Brooklyn boasts.

In 2007, Charlie Looker, the band's leader, formed Extra Life, one of the strangest bands to come out of this region. Extra Life's music could be described rather hilariously as a mix of Meshuggah (without vocals) and gregorian chant, with some folk and other unidentifiable influences thrown in. This rather random selection of influences does no justice to Extra Life's music. Despite the eclectic list of musical similarities, Extra Life's music comes of as very cohesive and well-structured.

Extra Life could be described as a math rock band, but it's evident that they don't roll dice for their choice in time signatures. They're not the type of band who haphazardly chooses a set of time signatures in which to play in order to artificially confine their music to the restraints of a given genre. Their choice of time signatures is a necessity called upon by the structural plans of the music.

The band's most popular song is also the one that is most wholly representative of their music. This song is called I Don't See It That Way, and its stream is available on the band's MySpace. This song has a bit of everything: mastery of rhythm that makes most math rock bands seem amateurish by comparison, microtonal violin playing, classically-inspired vocals, bone-crushing guitar tone, and an incredible structure.

The album's highlights are Blackmail Blues, I Don't See It That Way, and This Time, although there is no filler in the 50 minutes of music. Although each song is clearly distinguishable as Extra Life, they're all quite varied. There is no homogeneity in the structure of each of the songs, so despite the similar instrumentation and mood that each song shares, they all sound quite different somehow. Blackmail Blues and The Refrain seem to share some sort of Eastern influence, which sets them apart from the rest of the record. Bled White, as the album's only a cappella track, is clearly distinguished from the rest of the album. Clocking in at just over 2 minutes, it is significantly shorter than the rest of the songs here, and it serves mostly as a closer to the album.

To the possible dismay of some of ProgArchives' users, Charlie Looker does not listen to prog, which is something I find almost impossible to believe. Despite this, Secular Works is undeniably a progressive album, and the experimentation that lies therein is some of the most meaningful and important of any avant-garde band in existence right now. Any fan of avant-garde music owes it to themselves to check out this record.

auralsun | 4/5 |


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