Purple on Time
’ll be honest; this is only the second U.S. Maple album that I’ve really enjoyed. That’s not to say that I couldn’t appreciate the art-noise skronk of Sang Phat Editor, Talker, and Acre Thrills, and the level of musicianship it took to make them (no scoffing please, it does take a sizeable amount of talent to pull off the U.S. Maple sound accurately), but I could never find the right mood to truly enjoy these records.
Of course the one I’ve left out is the fabulous Long Hair in Three Stages which, to this day, sits atop the U.S. Maple heap. Only there does the noise seem to congeal with some solid structure and make for a truly pleasing listen. I would easily lump Purple on Time in with their first album, as it manages to capture the near-perfect balance of style and substance that they reached on their first album.
Much of this can be attributed to the replacement of their drummer. The replacement seems to me to be quite content to pound out a steady rhythm rather than stumbling over his kit as Pat Samson had so artfully done in the past. This, in itself, pushes the band into a more forced structure and gives the guitar squiggles a better canvas to cast themselves upon. The rest of the band seems to slide into this formula surprisingly well, as best evidenced at the very outset of the record on “My Lil’ Shocker”, which starts out with steady drums a very clear riff and moves into a relatively catchy progression. The song still sounds far from normal mind you, but for U.S. Maple this sort of structure is frighteningly commonplace.
This newly structured sound, is augmented by the fact that the amps seem to be a bit louder than they were on the last album, Acre Thrills, giving the songs a bit more gusto and energy. The record abounds with glorious (and surprisingly non-atonal) riffs, and the guitars tend to intertwine more than they fight. “Oh Below” and “Dumb In the Wingz” both wear their hearts on their sleeves musically, and while they eschew much of the noise and dissonance from earlier U.S. Maple, they’ve managed to trade these traits in for a striking poignancy unheard on their latest efforts.
In case anyone is wondering at this point whether the “singing” (if you’ve heard U.S. Maple you know why that word is in quotation marks) has changed at all with the rest of the band’s push towards a more traditional sound; the answer is yes and no. We’re still given the traditional moans and howls that we’ve come to expect, except this time the groans often become notes, and more than often actual vocal melodies emerge from the guttural groans. One notable exception to the rule here are the vocals on “Oh Below”. Upon first listen I was taken aback by the trembling falsetto that dominates the track. This is par for the course, though, for Purple on Time: the vocals often float and slither, rather than grate or scrape.
Overall, the record seems to be a step in an excellent direction for the band, and they’ve managed to make the transition of replacing a drummer of a completely different style without losing the aspects of the band that made them interesting. Luckily, his inclusion has also meant that the group seems to be reinvigorated and, along with their talented musicianship, bringing excellent songwriting to the fore.
Reviewed by: Landis Wine
Reviewed on: 2003-11-21