If I may present the scenario that 2007 was a big, old house, let us agree that it burned to the ground on December 31st. Don’t be alarmed--both founding members of The Torn ACLs, Miles Ranisavljevic and William Cremin, made it out the front door with a few minor abrasions and a light smattering of soot deposited upon a sleeve or two.
Phew. That was a close one, guys.
As they navigated the inferno and darted to safety, they were fortunately clearheaded enough to pocket a significant bit of would-be debris. Before the blaze, the duo would go from room to room, refining, rearranging, and finally documenting a small cluster of unusual pop songs. This was no
simple task. Without any additional band members, the pair of them would shoulder the entirety of the creative process. Armed with a like-minded aesthetic and some new instruments in tow, they embarked on the project with an auteur-like sense of commitment. The result of these efforts, the lone item salvaged from the ruins of 2007, is Cedar-by-the-sea.
Thematically, the EP mines a series of wildly overwhelming situations for answers and ultimately comes up short, both through detached observation and the sympathetic portrayal of poor saps who just went too far. Although Cedar-by-the-sea offers no comforting resolution for these battles of
self-control, it does, in its brief 17-minute runtime, manipulate diverse instrumentation and space-conscious arrangements to soften and sharpen the sting as needed.
Over the the four songs therein, smooth electric piano and guitar lines jostle against four-on-the-floor drums, and tonally rich bass figures adeptly churn beneath the glassy ring of scattered glockenspiels. Cremin’s vocals are lazily wistful at times and impart a magnetic sense of urgency at others.
“Reputation,” a fine example of the latter, opens the disc with stop/start rhythms and a pyrotechnic keyboard romp of a finale. From there, the mood shifts, and “The Audacity” evokes a restrained, adversarial paranoia through rapidly flowing arpeggios and Ranisavljevic’s haunting saw performance. The EP’s centerpiece, “Brother Twelve,” dynamically recounts the history of the Aquarian Foundation, a religious cult that formed in the late 1920s, just a few hours north of the ACLs’ hometown of Seattle. This, the most dense and nuanced arrangement here, distills all of Cedar-by-the-sea’s stylistic dalliances and conceptual ideas into one sprawling composition. “Obsessively, Compulsively” concludes its 6/8 sway with a sweeping, cathartic rush, ushered in by a turbulent flood of overdriven guitars.
As the ashes cool and the neighborhood urchins arrive to scavenge through the rubble, William and Miles are emerging from the rebuilding process at an entirely different site just a few blocks away. The additions of drummer Chalia Bakker and multi-instrumentalist Emily Westman have ushered in a new era of live shows and further projects. Along with the creation of their own label, CreeperSpeak Records, they also plan to break ground on the follow-up to Cedar-by-the-sea in the latter half of 2008.