Review: Charmparticles – “Sit Down for Staying”

If you’re interested in breaking down Charmparticles’ sophomore offering to its foundation or its basic principles, don’t look for clues in the band’s name, which seems to imply the quartet is interested in magnifying and illuminating the sweetness of musical minutia.

Look, instead, to the title of the six-song disc. Sit Down for Staying is a study in contradictions and unanticipated conclusions.

The musical puzzle begins its decoding from the first track. On “Sixty-Four,” the listener is introduced to vocalist/guitarist Adam Wayne, whose carefully crafted but modest vocal delivery initially would seem more at home on a record of fragile ballads or Brit- (or Brit-inspired) pop.

But Charmparticles, though owing some measurable debt to Brit pop/pop-rock bands and shoegazers, seem to approach things a bit differently, crafting songs that ditch clichéd pop formulas and instead choose to sway to and fro with crashing tides of layered sound. This is embodied most readily in the dueling guitar work of Wayne and Sarah FitzGerald (her spelling), both of whom attack verses, bridges, and refrains with the logic that if one note or chord is good, a myriad of notes and chords is better.

For some bands, the resulting effect would be the equivalent of a sonic overdose. The listener would lose interest in that catchy hook or that perfectly delivered reprise because their ears were being bombarded with a muddy clutter of notes.

But Charmparticles somehow make this work by keeping the framework simple — kudos here to the oft-instinctive rhythms of bassist/vocalist Pamela Rooney and drummer Nathaneal Merrill — and focusing the limelight on cascading guitars and passionate vocals. For evidence, you’d don’t need to look much past “Sixty-Four” and the often-majestic title track, both of which call to mind My Bloody Valentine and its disciples.

Elsewhere, the Portland, Oregon quartet uses an unexpected attention to dense layers and texture more sparingly — take note of how one guitar keeps pace while another quietly weeps during “Solvent” or how effectively Rooney’s tender voice and a faint guitar (digital delay and all) are integrated into the fabric of it all on the dreamy “A/O.”

And then there’s the EP-closing “Phone and Finder,” which seems to suggest that, for as attentive as the musicians are to the construction of their sound, they’re also just as driven by the beating of their own hearts.

The track — which rounds out the 30-minute disc — covers a lot of ground, beginning with the soft, somber hush of an electric guitar and the reverbed whisper of a voice and expanding into a rousing rumination whose refrains could be pulled as easily from an Eleventh Dream Day LP as they could from some live Jeff Buckley recording.

It’s one of Sit Down For Staying‘s greatest tracks, clearly its most emotive and passionate, and probably the one most likely to get listeners jazzed up for whatever forthcoming releases the band has up its sleeve. – Delusions of Adequacy, Nov. 8, 2004

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