Like the shrinking car whose disappearance is mapped out on track 5, the sophomore album from New York City's Hi Red Center moves from poignant, nostalgic musical terrains toward a kind of pure, beaming, quantum velocity. Vibraphones, barbershop quartet harmonies, sung rounds, and a cleanliness and clarity of instrumentation are neatly nestled together with noisy guitars, highly controlled melodic breakdowns, asyncopation, false starts and sudden endings. Yes, they are sometimes a difficult band. Their musical influences range from Lionel Richie to Captain Beefheart. But they sincerely want to make music that you will love.
Originally forming in 2003, this NYC area band released their debut Architectural Failures on Pangaea Recordings (now Natural Selection Records) back in 2006. The band's second album Assemble moves in more clear, concise direction while somehow containing instrumentation that, here and there, seems to slide off its track, breaking into weirdly juxtaposed parallel trajectories. But for all of their esoteric and almost academic experimentation a cheerful soulfulness comes through on this album that distinguishes HRC from many of their musical contemporaries.
Throughout the album, the intellectual rigor of its composition is energized and animated by a manic gleefulness: the unpolluted self-enjoyment produced in the process of generating such nimble patterns in sound. Particularly on tracks like "Toothless Beau" and "Symmetry Chameleon" there is a kind of giddy, child-like ecstasy that comes through in both the instrumentation and the vocals. And while much of this album can be appreciated by those who have suffered through upper-level music composition classes, schooling is not a requirement to enjoy this music. With Assemble Hi Red Center have created an endearingly odd album - challenging and strange, but also honest and unpretentious.