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Soft Speaker Tests Their Ever Twisting Boundaries

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 7, 2011 7:00PM

Photo by Joe Lukey
This week Chicago's Soft Speaker releases Vortrobos, their second album in 2011, and it continues further down the path of it's predecessor I'll Tend Your Garden with interesting results. With each release Soft Speaker grows more confident in the compositional prowess and the musical interplay grows ever deeper as the band grows more comfortable with their skills at developing ever thickening tickets of sound.

The band's approach owes a great debt to the '70s, plumbing the weirder corners of the earlier part of that decade for inspiration. Long gone is the punchy pop that gave us one of the band's earlier standout songs "Mercury Park." This has been replaced by an urge towards the grandiose and we respect the band's commitment to creating songs that are unapologetically larger than life.

On Vortrobos the band grows a tad too self-indulgent at times, allowing passages to stretch on too long without apparent purpose other than unwinding another dose of two guitar lines kissing and caressing each other. It's pretty but distracting. Don't mistake this as a criticism of song length though, since one of the stand-outs on the album, "Ask The Guild," clocks in at almost eight minutes and numerous musical movements and not a measure of it isn't worthy of your full attention. And at just about three minutes the album's title track is a god example of how a song can stretch out beyond its welcome without actually occupying much physical space in the running order.

Vortrobos is the sound of Soft Speaker testing their own boundaries and when a band is brave enough to honestly do that it's bound to get a little bumpy at times. But it's also a sign of a band maturing and figuring out how to deepen their connection with their own music, and when that happens honestly it creates a sort of vortex that swirls around and can have any number of results. In Soft Speakers' case we hear a band figuring out how to travel deep enough into the musical whirlpool in order to create a pull strong enough to pull the listener down there with them without drowning everyone in the process. Vortrobos finds Soft Speaker on the winning side of that equation and we're looking forward to surfing that push and pull along with the band.

Soft Speaker plays an album release show November 19 at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 8:30 p.m., $8, 18+