Published Oct 07, 2016Balance and Composure's first two albums were embraced by fans for their nuanced yet terrifically loud brand of emo-minded grunge-rock, a simultaneously pulverizing yet fragile state they nearly perfected on 2013's The Things We Think We're Missing. But instead of building on that momentum, the Pennsylvania group have opted instead to pull back the throttle. It's a vastly different experience than past albums, and one that may take up to a dozen listens to sink in.
Returning as producer is Will Yip, who has also overseen bands like Title Fight and Turnover as they similarly manoeuvred from guitar-heavy indie-punk to some variation of spacey alt-rock. Light We Made has been aptly compared to Radiohead, and it's not hard to hear influence from artists like the Cure or even Björk, either. Sometimes it can feel like a dream; other times, like a nightmare. It can be a dark, gloomy experience — frequently punctuated by a mumbling, robotic background voice that gets old (and frankly, annoying) quite quickly — but the songs are still quite catchy, groovy and pensively melodic.
Fuzzy, choppy bass lines are quite prominent, the drums less so than in the past. The guitar tones are crisp and chunky during the deeper sections and light and breezy in the lighter segments. Jon Simmons has eschewed his ragged howl and instead sings in a soothing, reserved tone, his falsetto a strong contributor to the icy atmosphere on "Midnight Zone." The band also experiments with some electronic elements, most notably on "Postcard," the hypnotic lead single, and the very cool yet somewhat unsettling "For a Walk."
The record's back half, meanwhile, casts rays of light into the shadows. The watery guitars on "Call It Losing Touch" may remind some of Title Fight's Hyperview, and its exquisite chorus makes it a high point on the album, with an impassioned sound a bit reminiscent of an older cut like "Echo" from their debut, Separation. "Is It So Much to Adore?" follows the same line, offering some respite from the first half's consuming greyness, while "Loam" brings up the rear by striking the best balance between the band's new and old sounds.
It's good that Balance and Composure are exploring their own creativity, and admirable, too, that they're using experiences — like the band's eye-opening car accident that provided the inspiration for "Afterparty" — to grow, evolve and mature as musicians and as people. And while it can be hard not to yearn for more massive and cathartic songs like "Reflection," Light We Made is still a quality effort, even if it's an adjustment. (Vagrant)