Threefifty - Gently Among the Coals
Threefifty has already, in a brief amount of time, established themselves as one of the most intelligent modern units today. The eight piece collective is anchored by its two founding members, Geremy Schulick and Brett Parnell, and their exploratory spirit is embodied by the restless creativity driving each of the band’s releases. They’ve done a nearly unparalleled job of evolving from their early classical inclinations into something more accessible, in some ways, but possessing an unique sound quite unlike anything you’ll hear in the modern marketplace. There’s no question that Threefifty have made a concerted effort to broach new territory with this release and the twelve songs that have resulted from their hard work testifies to their success. Gently Among the Coals has musical, literary, and vocal beauty galore.
The breadth of color in their music is simply astonishing. Threefifty, for all intents and purposes, should be foremost considered as a collective with the aforementioned founding members, along with Jennifer Stock, as the collective’s artistic and spiritual center. They never fail to play as a cohesive, fully realized band. “Crossing State Lines” is an audacious beginning to the album and fully of metaphorical possibilities. It certainly does conjure visions of wide open American vistas in the middle of nowhere, but there’s an unlikely pastoral beauty to the piece as well. It is a quality that listeners will find recurrent on Gently Among the Coals. One of the album’s indisputable high points comes with the poignant and poetic number “Allegiance”. Vicki Kennelly Stock, mother of band member Jennifer Stock, wrote the lyrics and the musical adaptation of her text never dilutes the power of her words or seems arbitrary. Instead, one informs the other and it makes for one of the album’s most powerful artistic statements. “Andromeda” is another of the album’s finest moments. The construction of the song, undoubtedly, will attract much notice as it has rousing orchestration dialing up the intensity from the first, but doing so with such steely patience that the wait for the tune to fully realize itself begets its own sort of delicious tension.
“Until Our Hearts Give Out” is accurately described as a love song. There’s an upward swing to everything the instrumentation does and its tasteful electronic underpinning allows the string instruments to flesh out the top line melody with an extraordinary depth of color. There’s a meditative quality to certain passages, as well, that resolve themselves with a number of gripping mini-crescendos. There’s a thin air of foreboding coming from “The Door” thanks to the slightly downcast air taken by the acoustic guitars, but additional instrumentation brightens it into a more reflective hue. It’s the album’s second Vicki Kennelly Stock lyric and has a much more elliptical quality than the more specific “Allegiance”. The vocals and occasional harmonies exude an ethereal quality quite in keeping with the song’s subject. They adopt a wide variety of melodic approaches in this song and all of them are successful. Gently Among the Coals dispenses with guitar entirely on its finale “Freedmen”. This is a haunted, but utterly beautiful, piece relying a lot on nearly ambient instrumentation. A song, gradually, emerges – tenuous, but reverential. It might seem an unlikely curtain for Threefifty’s latest release, but it’s in keeping with the album’s adventurous soul.