Balance and Composure - Separation (Cover Artwork)

Balance and Composure

Balance and Composure: SeparationSeparation (2011)
No Sleep Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: InaGreendaseBrian
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Jon Simmons wears his influence on his sleeve–literally. The leading vocalist/guitarist of Balance and Composure sports a tattoo squarely on his muscle in honor of Neutral Milk Hotel's 1998 classic, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Hell, Separation's cover art, unintentionally or not, hints at i.
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Jon Simmons wears his influence on his sleeve–literally. The leading vocalist/guitarist of Balance and Composure sports a tattoo squarely on his muscle in honor of Neutral Milk Hotel's 1998 classic, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Hell, Separation's cover art, unintentionally or not, hints at it as well, even if the sun replacement references the thematic, skyward tilt of its contents. Still, it's somewhat ironic, then, that he's the literal interpretation of an oft-used metaphor that only used to describe his band.

Okay, granted, the band's first proper full-length, Separation bears a handful of isolated moments that show its influences bleeding through: Nirvana's moody, nasal reverberations murmur in "Fade" and opener "Void"; Simmons' self-referentialism in gorgeous ballad "Stonehands" features an exaggerated stress of the "e" in "me," a clear paean to Jeff Mangum's unique enunciations; the opening riff to "Galena" lifts that of Jawbreaker's "Chemistry"; and late entry "Echo" refits Brand New's "The No Seatbelt Song" into a newly unnerving frame.

That being said, Balance and Composure have crafted an astounding and often depressing full-length debut that is otherwise theirs and theirs to own. Separation is a heady, physically and emotionally draining 48 minutes of raw introspection and alternately vague soul searching, a smooth yet bitter blend of alternative/indie rock and post-hardcore. It's practically a workout–thick and often overwhelmingly dense, drawn out to deliberate proportions. It moves with a dark and unpredictable atmosphere, stacked with layers of intertwining guitars, booming drums and the occasionally showy, rhythmic trick, all balled into an effortless, continual rustle by producer Brian McTernan that's nonetheless compelling at every lowly and commiserating turn.

The opening quarter picks up steam as it goes along, winding from the uncomfortable cynicism of "Void" through to Simmons' remote optimism and sprained dynamics of the title track, and finally to the serrated, throat-searing chorus for the appropriately titled "Quake". Simmons never really seems to overstep his lyrical boundaries, and his intermittent moments of scathing simplicity seem to impossibly just work, like in the chugging/twinkling/anthemic "I Tore You Apart in My Head": "Fuck what you told me. / It all leads to smoking / alone in my room in the end." Or in "Echo": "I've been great these last few days. / Oh my God, who gives a shit anyway?"

Even in lesser cuts like "Progress, Progress" come an arresting moment, this one being where the guitar suddenly sprawls into a post-rock spiral and Simmons' vocal approach transitions to a miserable mutter. By the time the band reach the final third of the record, they've actually hit their stride. "More to Me" is a heart-wrenching contrast of the strained and the restrained, from Simmons' refrain of the sketchy metaphor ("I'm a wounded man on top of trees") to his bipolar remission ("Keep it inside, / and swallow / whatever it is that keeps you warm. / Hold it back, / for what's to come might crush you. / I take it back..."). It tumbles forth through one overpowering section after another, while the aforementioned followup, "Echo", is simply chilling through and through. "Echo" is the emotional low of the album, but also one of the artistic highs, marinated in just the right flavor of haunting reverb, and following it with the record's most aggressive cut, "Patience", provides a perfectly jarring transition.

Separation is an exhausting practice, riddled in catharsis and grinding tension. Balance and Composure always conveyed a certain level of tribal melancholy with their past material, but they've rarely employed it with this much thought and deliberation, nor as much originality. Brilliant.



People who liked this also liked:
Touché Amoré - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and MeTitle Fight - ShedDefeater - Empty Days & Sleepless NightsThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundThe Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsBasement - I Wish I Could Stay HereJoyce Manor - Joyce ManorMake Do and Mend - End Measured MileThe Flatliners - Cavalcade

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
shenaniganss (December 30, 2011)

Cannot get over this, find a new favourite song off this every day.

lowaction (December 11, 2011)

Great album.

kylekrische19 (December 8, 2011)

One of the best of 2011

keithybobeefy (June 18, 2011)

I didn't really like this much when I first heard it. It wasn't bad, it just didn't captivate me. I don't know what happened between the time when I first listened to now, but I really like this now.

istapledmyfoot (May 26, 2011)

overdefined: this is like 2 weeks old so you'll probably never read it, BUT I had no idea you've been staff for 3 years, so my bad. basically anyone post-2006 is new staff to me, b/c I'm ancient and have nostalgia for things like punknews writers. Anyway, sorry for my bitchy comment on your bitchy comment. I actually really enjoy your otherwise purposeful, non-comment-related writing. Anyway, thanks for the kind words and my band is super active. We're actually going into the studio tomorrow to start recording a follow up EP to what I imagined you listened to. I'd say it's better than the worst half of our debut, and as good as the best half. I would be psyched to send you an physical copy of our first album (and this EP whenever it's finished) just let me know: yeahgreatfine@gmail.com.

(p.s.: our album: http://www.mediafire.com/?y9pjju2b3s9bieh)

Billymitchell (May 25, 2011)

This was honestly my release of the year. 2011 is a great year from Punk releases with Funtitled, Shed, To Risk So Much For One Damn Meal, etc. but I truly adore these guys and had really high hopes for this album and it didn't disappoint me. I've suprised that I haven't burned holes in my disk drive listening to it so much.

livingsaintz (May 13, 2011)

I dig this album so hard, it's perfect.

LeightonESmith (May 13, 2011)

They've got a great sound. I'd have to say 'Quake' is one of my favourite songs this year.

ThisRespirator (May 12, 2011)

Reminds me of Deja Entendu and that is a great thing. Loving this one time through.

overdefined (May 12, 2011)

Comment 2 to youstapledyourfoot-

I looked at your user profile because I'm really into research and listened to your band. I liked it. You guys still active?

overdefined (May 12, 2011)

youstapledyourfoot -

I've been staff for three years. Still new?!?! AGGGGH.

Also, I'm not pissy, I'm just turning into a troll. Way too much of what I write in comments is designed to make mikexdude laugh. He's a good guy, you should check him out.

motorsport226 (May 12, 2011)


Funny you say that. A week ago I would have completely disagreed with you but the last few days I've been listening to both albums nonstop and yeah, Shed is the better album.

Rodeo (May 11, 2011)

This album is really really reallyreally good.

mikexdude (May 11, 2011)

Yeah! All in favor for kicking overdefined out of the club say "I."


istapledmyfoot (May 11, 2011)

overdefined: most pissy, least classy new staff member?

aubin (May 11, 2011)

Really liking this album. The production is awesome too, just love the guitar tone, particularly on "Quake."

overdefined (May 11, 2011)

What a well-written comment. Album titles go in italics! Songs go in quotes!

"AK3punk: This is "End Measured Mile" for 2011...get into it..."

overdefined (May 11, 2011)


"AK3punk: I forgot to add how great this review was. It's nice to read a well written review for once on this site."

AK3punk (May 11, 2011)

I forgot to add how great this review was. It's nice to read a well written review for once on this site.

lostrunningnow (May 10, 2011)


makeorbreak (May 10, 2011)

i enjoy this review a lot. i feel like this album will grow on people sort of like brand new's devil and god took a while to grow on most people. i think its a fucking awesome album i like it more every time i listen.

AK3punk (May 10, 2011)

This is "End Measured Mile" for 2011...get into it...

theTopher (May 10, 2011)

yeah... it's not bad by any means, but it's not great. I was really into Only Boundaries and their split for a while

makeshifty (May 10, 2011)

It's alright. Shed is better though.

overdefined (May 10, 2011)

Definitely going to check out that stream now. I'll make sure to let you know what I think!

overdefined (May 10, 2011)

Damn, great review, Brian!

nickdiesel (May 10, 2011)

album is good. not great, just good. it definitely has some standout moments, but mostly it all just blends together without really jumping out to grab your attention.

Dante3000 (May 10, 2011)

Really want to hear this. When is the label going to send out the damn pre-orders?!

Shogun (May 10, 2011)

Great review. Been listening to this a lot lately and it's slowly growing on me. I appreciate the grungel influences but not my favourite part about the album.

wallofyouth (May 10, 2011)

why is the phrase "a tattoo squarely on his muscle" so funny to me?

Mahalfy (May 10, 2011)

Pretty solid record. It grows on you after a few spins.

overdefined (May 10, 2011)

Fancy review

jo_punk_promoter (May 10, 2011)

You got it right, amazing record. 2011 is a pretty good year so far

Mystereohasmono (May 10, 2011)

The term "brilliant" gets tossed around too willy-nilly these days.

Slazey (May 10, 2011)

Will be checking it out. Great review, by the way.

mikexdude (May 10, 2011)

This review is a new artistic peak for nerd-ery.

HeresLookinAtYou (May 10, 2011)

Very, very good.

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