Settlefish - The Plural Of The Choir (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


The Plural Of The Choir (2005)

Deep Elm

While one glance at the song lengths of the track listing on The Plural Of The Choir might give some the impression that Italy's Settlefish has served up a mind-bogglingly disjointed effort of a second full-length, its physical appearance is betraying. The only thing mind-boggling about the album is the album itself. The Plural Of The Choir is a superbly cohesive and original work of art, combing over the fields of several vague genres for the best traces of style to create something that very delicately walks the tightrope between accessible and experimental, and reaches the next building in one piece.

The band's lush, atmospheric sound seems to throw together the post-prefixed versions of their take on hardcore, punk, and rock, and in doing so, it comes off befittingly dreamy and yet somehow occasionally dancey and singable. So maybe that's why I find it so irrationally amusing how much vocalist Jonathan Clancy often resembles Tom DeLonge; while Clancy certainly throws out a lot of the annoying nasal tones DeLonge can produce, it occasionally creeps up on Clancy here, and it's actually rather charming. Several tracks help present this well; opening track "Kissing Is Chaos" is one of the best pieces of evidence for the comparison, as the song breaks down with an upbeat harmony from the vocalist that sounds like one of the most intelligent musings from the self-titled effort DeLonge is partially responsible for, as Clancy chants "as the rose declined, who got left behind! those sudden tracks...disabled." It's one of only two six-minute tracks on the record, and somehow, it seems to move by surprisingly quickly, never dragging or noodling in its landscapes. "The Barnacle Beach" contains more of that almost-rambling vocal style pulled off so well, and the similarity continues in the line "hopscotch 'round the yard!" I'm a hundred percent sure this comparison is just that - completely unintentional, as the vocal harmonies certainly take influence from American Football too (as well as bits and pieces musically), but it's an observation I'm sure others would make just the same.

The production is moderately raw, and it couldn't fit the style better, giving The Plural Of The Choir an antique, improvisationally-executed feel. At seemingly random times, the band will add drum rim stick clicks or short, sporadic bursts of laid-back clapping rhythms ("It Was Bliss!," f.e.), adding perfectly to the record. This isn't to mention the individuality of all the band's components; while they're certainly playing in time and with each other, each instrument - including the vocals - sound like they're doing their own thing, and them just happening to sound well together is merely a coincedental summary of all the parts.

"Oh Well" immediately starts off with ridiculously dynamic chord movement - one guitar is beaten through power chords and another is used to fill the speakers with flowing, ambient riffing, with Clancy shouting "Oh, hold on, I just hit a man!" The album's fourth track, "Getting The Clicks Out Of Our Hearts," is an early interlude that acts as the light ballad of the disc. "Blinded By Noise" is a summed-up conveyance of the band's more intense, aggressive moments, as an angular indie rock frame takes a lately overused At The Drive-In influence to refreshing heights, while its partner in crime, "Two Cities, Two Growths," is the more mid-tempo, depth-rising example of the tense emotions the record is usually hiding underneath the surface. "We Please The Night, Drama" couldn't close the record any more appropriately: it's a six-minute track that flushes out every last bit of atmospheric tension the record's been building up for just over a half-hour.

The only thing that really bothers me about The Plural Of The Choir is that it's the perfect early-career premonition that says Settlefish will likely go years unappreciated, unintentionally forebearing success. However, it also proves they're likely to leave, in the least, a permanent inkling upon the indie rock scene, as The Plural Of The Choir is a great effort that lurks experimental waters without drowning finless.

Kissing Is Chaos
Oh Well
The Barnacle Beach
It Was Bliss!
The Marriage Funeral Man
Two Cities, Two Growths
Ice In The Origin

Kissing Is Chaos