Review Summary: A highly pleasant mix of folk indie and all things nice.
The recordings of The Middle East is a collective of 8 tracks written and recorded by the band over june 2007 through till march 2008. Having been around on and off for a few years they have been producing a diverse form of dreamy indie pop, akin to bands such as anathallo or the lighter moments of mewithoutYou. Drawing influence from all over the place these talented queenslanders consistently manage to produce highly infectious and rather soothing melodies, as they so willingly display on this 8 track release.
From start to finish this collection of recordings has a soft wistful sense about it, each track, dynamically unique, moves through various stages of light soulful reflection right through to jarring moments of epic instrumentation. The overall tone can best be described as the moments in between dreams, where youre in that trance like state where you are not asleep but you are not fully awake. Each song whilst unique, maintains this slight sense of levitation, like they were floating above the clouds at each step of the writing process.
The songs move through at a fairly quick rate despite the fact the tracks clock in at an average time of 6 minutes each. Leaving much of the hard work coming across simply as a blur. At times, the sweeping guitars, the heartfelt crooning and the warming percussion all blend into one 8 track melodic movement that always seems to end sooner than you anticipated. But at the same time each song carries its own sense of weight in a different way, almost like the listener, while in a good place, has stopped to think for a minute and reflect on various aspects of their life.
Like many other bands in a similar vein, The Middle East use a wide array of sounds and instruments including xylophone, tambourine, flute and strings all of which are employed in just the right amount to make their melodies or rhythms stand out above the general hum of the guitar bass and drums. For the most part the vocals come across as another instrument in the sound of The Middle East. Following the ambient feel of the other instruments, the vocals are a very soothingly light mostly falsetto layer over the rest of the instruments.
Track #2 'Beleriand' (The Silmarillion much?) is probably the strongest representation of the bands amazingly dreamy live show put to record. From the start its breaks out like the sun popping out from behind a set of clouds on a highly overcast day. The electric guitars tambourine bass and drums drive the listeners through one of the 'rockier' moments of the recordings until the song strips back like the emerging clouds to a single acoustic guitar, with the reverberating delayed sounds of the electric guitar providing the perfect backdrop for the rest of the instruments to re-emerge and cover up the acoustic guitar one by one. The brushed drums and looming bass guitar provide the perfect pad to stop the song from falling in on itself with some well placed accents and a changing phrase length driving the entire mood of the greater half of the song. The song ascends around 4minutes in, with the snare hits getting harder and the sweeping guitar as well as the all the other instruments being overdriven into a fuzzy blend of melody.
Whilst not perfect, The Middle East have provided an extremely strong set of songs that convey a high level of craftsmanship, as well as a level of maturity and cohesion bands of this style usually find later in their careers.
The future is surely bright for these aspiring queenslanders.