Review Summary: An epic debut from a musical tour de force, Six Gallery's Breakthroughs in Modern Art holds its own right next to contemporaries such as Minus the Bear
I will start off this review by admitting my bias. I first heard about this band from the man who taught the prolific lead guitarist Will Vokac how to play. Since seeing Six Gallery perform in Athens, Ohio this fall, where they got their got start, Breakthroughs in Modern Art has become one of my desert island albums. This isn’t without good reason, however.
Prior to releasing this debut LP, Six Gallery released two EPs as an instrumental band, allowing the tumultuous two handed tapping of guitarists Vokac and Ben Schreiber to shine. This has not changed with the release of the LP, but they now have to share the limelight with the recent addition of vocalist Daniel Francis. This new element has essentially created an entirely new band, combing sounds reminiscent of contemporaries Minus the Bear and Maps & Atlases, as well as the vocal styling’s of Circa Survive frontman Anthony Green.
You can very easily imagine how this band would succeed simply as an instrumental act. Vokac plays like a man possessed, often leading you to wondering how he is doing it with just two hands. The guitars are always present and always awe-inspiring, but never cheesy. Every note seems like it is being played for a reason, and seeing this done live, you understand even better that there are no wasted motions. Everything flows perfectly into what can only be described as a musical Shangri-la. Others attempting to create what Six Gallery does might be described as gaudy, perhaps pretentious. They do in fact seem to be screaming “Look at us. We can play guitar”. And you will find yourself pleasantly responding “I know. Now shut up and let me listen”.
Bassist Alex Weinhardt and drummer Benji Miller are often forced to take a back seat, but this is meant in no way to diminish their skills, as they provide a both pleasing and necessary backdrop to the crescendos plastered throughout the album. They help turn what might otherwise seem like chaos into catchy hooks that will keep you coming back for more. Which brings me to the vocals. Spectacular in their own right on the EPs, vocalist Daniel Francis is the best thing that could have happened to Six Gallery, transforming them from a talented group of musicians into a coherent and competent musical force. I likened him earlier to Anthony Green, and this is in no way a stretch, as he brings both the talent and passion heard on all of Green’s projects. At times he helps to provide an interesting dichotomy of emotions, musically grand and vocally heartfelt, and at others it is just epic on top of epic.
After the very first track, you can’t help but wonder why Six Gallery isn't mentioned in the same sentence as Minus the Bear and Circa Survive. A recent signing to Superball music, home to well known acts Oceansize and …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead might change this. Six Gallery has landed a spot on the 2010 incarnation of SXSW, which will be followed shortly by a release of this masterful album on March 23rd.