Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Album Review: Chung Antique, 'Sweater Weather'

Photo by Victoria Holt

Like many of the sonically obsessed, I’m continuously on the hunt through a never-ending maze of Bandcamps, Soundclouds, and skuff racks to find new ways to soundtrack my daily life. There isn’t any quantitative way to measure success with such a compulsion, but, for me, nothing beats finding an artist whose work just sticks. Chung Antique's 2011 demo, 'Go Poetry!' had this effect on me almost immediately after I found it last year, so when I heard they were finally releasing a new record I knew that I needed to investigate.

'Go Poetry!' by Chung Antique. Self-released 2011

To back up a little, the group that self-released ‘Go Poetry!’ was still more or less a college band. Having formed at Evergreen State in Olympia, the Chung Antique of 2011 was honing their craft at local house shows--drawing inspiration from their peers, and finding their own voice.

Even still, the demo that resulted was remarkably well formed. In a three-member band there really isn’t any room for fodder, and every inch of ‘Go Poetry!’ showcased their talent for weaving complex, often syncopated melodies into a cohesive narrative. To say that it was a promising first effort is an understatement.

Following ‘Go Poetry!’ the band embarked on an ambitious west coast tour, and relocated from Olympia to Seattle. Playing only a handful of shows during 2012, the only indication that they were even working on new material came in the form of the stellar single “Baking Brad”, which surfaced on YouTube following a live performance at Hollow Earth Radio (also check out the new video for the track by Nik Nerburn). Then, last month “Baking Brad” and “Stop Making Synths” (get it?) appeared on Bandcamp in support of a new record, and soon after I got my first glimpse of the Chung Antique of 2014.

'Sweater Weather' by Chung Antique. Available now from 20 Sided Records

My expectations were pretty high, but ‘Sweater Weather’s’ strength is undeniable. It’s still Mike (bass), Charlie (guitar), and Whitney (drums), and they still play phenomenal, math-rock infused post-rock, but the band has matured considerably. The record, which features 5 new songs in addition to re-recorded versions of several demo songs, is the perfect capstone for 5 years of work.  

However, this is not an anthology; ‘Sweater Weather’ is just as much an evolution in approach as it is a celebration of the past. Comparing the album versions to their earlier recordings, the band has slowed the pace of the re-recorded tracks considerably, but their refinement extends to the songwriting on the new tracks as well. Whether utilizing negative space to emphasize the gorgeous guitar harmonics on “Baking Brad”; gentle, Appleseed Cast-eque ruminations on “Former Farmer”; or delicate synthetic accompaniment on the zenith of what is hands down their most beautiful song to date, “Bagel Blue Eyes”, ‘Sweater Weather’ finds Chung Antique opening up their range considerably. If I had any complaint about the first demo, it would be that the Go! Go! Go! that served them well with the college crowd occasionally limited their impact in the studio, but that is no longer the case. Chung Antique's self-proclaimed quest is to find "the perfect balance of math and melody" and this record finds them hitting the nail square on the head.

'Sweater Weather' is out today on SF's 20 Sided Records. Download, or grab your copy on doublemint vinyl here, and keep an eye on our Upcoming Shows Page for your next chance to see them live.

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