Like the indie-rock-electronica duo the Postal Service, 310 is a band separated by geography; its roster — Tim Donovan in Brooklyn, Joseph Dierker in Seattle and Andrew Sigler in L.A. — spans the United States. But despite the distance, the trio’s fifth record, Recessional, is a coherent offering of ambient textures, live instrumentation and elegantly constructed beats. The band’s sound is rooted in left-of-center atmospherics: guitars, samples and synth programming influenced by the production of the Boards of Canada and other Warp releases. Recessional, though, places much more influence on melodies and live vocal performance.
Recessional was formulated around the themes of “cities and oceans, streets and rivers,” according to the liner notes. This characterization, which I had initially dismissed as over-the-top stonerdom, is quite accurate.
Opener “Opposite Corners” brought back a memory of boating down the Chicago River on a warm summer day, entering from Lake Michigan and passing into the city at dusk. It was a surreal experience that paired the relaxed fluidity on the water with the sensory bombardment of major metropolis surrounding you. The track begins with airy, filtered vocals floating over watery, soft tones with slight programmed percussion. It progresses on this gentle heading, eventually building to a guitar-led crescendo, with crashing live drums representing the commotion of the city. 310 employs a fairly simple dynamic, but in this case it’s executed perfectly.
Recessional‘s strengths lie in the trio’s use of Sigler’s vocals. The record has a few ambient and downtempo instrumental gems, but some of the others fall feel uninspired. “Study in Scarlet” reminds me of bad massage-parlor music — and I rate Brian Eno’s Music For Airports up there on my all-time favorites list. Still, Recessional is an ambitious effort that excels in many regards and, despite a few shortcomings, is well worth your time.