Artist: Case in Theory
Genre: Alternative rock/Progressive rock
Have you ever had a sudden, blissful moment of insight where you hear a sound or style that innumerable bands have strove and failed to achieve and then someone instantly, effortlessly, captures it? No? Just me? Well, Cinematic may just change your mind. The debut full-length of San José’s Case In Theory, it’s a stunning work that really captivates the listener, mixing a sublime ear for melody with beautifully realised atmosphere. This particular kind of airy, dreamy sound is far from novel – you can hear the likes of Minus the Bear and Circa Survive petering through in the background – but it is such an elegantly assured take on it that it assumes a character all its own, and this is what makes the album so impressive.
Without meaning to overhype Cinematic, as it does have some failings, it is nonetheless as vivid and haunting an album as you’re likely to hear all year. The craftsmanship of the band in putting it together is nothing but commendable. The album feels like a journey and one you’ll easily get lost in, as the band treks through lonely, foreboding wastelands marked with an overwhelming sense of the intimate and profound. There are instrumentals on this album that seem to say more than many songs do with words. The opening track, “Mavericks” has a fittingly climactic feel with a brooding air of intrigue or suspense that one might associate with a movie trailer. It is steady and thoughtful in its build up, with sombre vocalising that contributes to a sense of trepidation. Even at this early venture, the music seems to brim with a quiet confidence and immense presence. “Mavericks III” is a masterful track, led by a crusading guitar that manages to etch heroism, adversity, and spirit in equal measure. It lends this wordless ode such poignancy that it stands out as one of the album’s finest, even without any vocals, as the notes give it power and complexity.
Jonathan Posadas’s voice is a thing of beauty. His vocals, more so than anything else, afford the album its distinctively haunting quality throughout. On “The Night,” his performance is piercing, adding an emotive resonance to the musical movements. He seems pained and yet resolute – hinting at inner turmoil but containing it admirably. The vocals on “The Day” are slightly more soulful, although the music retains a subdued elegance. The track delights and compels in equal measure, as it is gripped halfway through by a streak of unbridled wildness. The gruffer vocal aspects of “Run Like Hell” create a focal point in an otherwise complex track, rooting it in the here and now and distinguishing it from the dreamy, insubstantial songs around it.
Were one to find fault with this, it would only be with the similarity of the tracks. That same ethereal quality that lends them their beauty also tends to drown them in repetition. The instrumentation and musicianship can’t be faulted but the songs are so intensely pensive that they blend together a little too effectively. The instrumental journey and guarded vocals of “Cinematic” for instance make for a wonderful song but it’s one which loses a lot of impact due to the likeness of the tracks that bookmark it. It takes something like “The Fall of the Golden Gate” then to lighten proceedings by bringing a touch of mischief to its sound. This latter piece is playful and searching – remote and vividly alive all at once. This contrasts with the mysterious quirks in the atmosphere, creating a sense of excitement that will do much to re-engage listeners after all the lofty philosophising.
Evidently thus, the $4,565 the band raised through Kickstarter to fund this album has been brilliantly spent. It seems curious, having listened to something like Cinematic, that there are certain bands out there (who shall not be named) who would ask for 10 times that amount to make something with not even a tenth of the quality. Case In Theory have exceeded themselves with this sumptuous, glistening album and marked themselves out as a name worthy of reverence. If this is only the beginning of their artistic journey, we may look forward to very wonderful things indeed.
Review written by Grace Duffy