Posted on August 24th, 2015 (3:00 pm) by Nick Manai

I don’t like the sound of Kim Benzie’s voice. It isn’t just the impeccably modulated timbre, or the mood of studied calm. It isn’t the very absence of rasp, nasal intonation or any sign that might be misconstrued as shrill and imperfect. There isn’t anything inherently rich about imperfect vocals, but there seems to me to be something completely off-putting about the quietly penetrating emphasis on practiced sincerity. On Aesthesis Benzie’s vocals sound disembodied, although handsomely dressed.

Which isn’t to say that they never rise in pitch or frequency. They go from cute school-boy whisper to alt-rock station yell, but never seem to get down to the business of vulnerability. And the connection you are supposed to forge with the voice on the other end of the line is the whole point of this third LP from the Australian alternative rock band Dead Letter Circus. Their sound aims at technical perfection while trying to communicate personal inferiority, loss and estrangement. “I promise you there is more I can change,” Benzie yells to his lover on “In Plain Sight,” but it sounds as though they have been practicing that moment for weeks, tinkering with sound quality around the clock. They obviously already think they’ve got it right. Are they really gonna change, lady?

Not every song follows the standard poetics of emotional alt-rock. “While You Wait” shudders with a dance floor loop and “YANA” strives for U2 echo-effects, but lapses into the more generally ambiguous territory of human polemics that the best U2 songs deafly punctuate, while the worst over-emphasize. “We are the weakest link/ We are born naked/ We may see our end, before our time.” Maybe if Benzie & Co were to go into an exploration of global warmings looming destruction I’d buy, but once he starts the shadow imagery and skull symbolism, my response to his grim prognosis on man is, "so what?"

But all in all you can shuffle through different moments of Aesthesis, whose title signifies a reliance on emotion and feeling, and feel like you’re in pretty much the same sad waters. Dissonance opens a track, an almost spiritual “OM” to prep your synapses for sincerity. Guitars mostly prickle with touchy dapples, before igniting in raucousness and drums and bass hold down the fort, mostly keeping their mouths shut within the hierarchy of the alt-rock discourse. It sounded fun, and there might be a silver lining, but the Aesthesis, or package of emotions, seems designed for ease of consumption - you can find a better deal somewhere else.

Track List:

  1. "In Plain Sight"
  2. "While You Wait"
  3. "The Burning Number"
  4. "Show Me"
  5. "Y A N A"
  6. "Silence"
  7. "The Lie We Live"
  8. "X"
  9. "Change the Concept"
  10. "Born (Part 2)"
Dead Letter Circus: Aesthesis
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

38 / 100
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