The Constellation Branch - Mirage (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Constellation Branch

Mirage (2010)


The Constellation Branch's 2008 full-length, The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass... had a momentum problem. It didn't really get going for six songs or so, with a simply uninteresting front half and a second act that brought out a better sense of buildup. With the band's followup EP, Mirage, it would seem the band have less time to get to the point, so do they?

The transition from intro "Fata Morgana" to proper opener "Hold Your Own" is a little forced and clipped, so that's not the greatest start right there. But in "Hold Your Own", it's clear that Radiohead remains a pretty steady influence on the band's sound, and it's one they're funneling in a curious way. They manage a jauntier feel here, though, with a pounding chorus, some groovy keys and an overall lively rhythm. I've drawn comparisons to the Dear Hunter before, and while the Constellation Branch isn't as always spacey or swirling, it seems appropriate here as well. The piano-led "Oneironaut" justifies the above RIYLs, with a complementing effect at the start that sounds like The Man in Black's machine-link sound. It's not always a compelling affair for all of its six minutes, but the theatricality is restrained and it's got a few cool moments.

"Leaves" is a folkier, acoustic-guided midpoint where the lightly nasal, Thom Yorke-isms continue, but it's another fairly interesting maneuver for the band. They follow it with the even slower title track, another six-minute leg where the vocals really make an effort with some strained falsettos and overall a lot of range. There's a quiet soft/loud arc that flows through this one impressively. Relatively meandering, eight-minute closer "Mad Hatter" is practically a suite (and gets a little more distortion in), but there's even more Radiohead here in places than elsewhere on the EP, though its buildup and take-out is more bluesy/classic rock-speckled than usual for them.

The Constellation Branch still isn't appealing to me on an extensive level, but Mirage is definitely an improvement over the band's prior material (despite all the continually blatant similarities), and that's something I can't deny. It's got a very restrained, relaxed and deliberate atmosphere about itself, but that's part of what makes it at least somewhat alluring.

Mirage EP