Sunday, July 31, 2011

Panther Moderns

     Panther Moderns offer up music of seeming simplicity that communicates a lot of emotion. Broadcasting from Providence, RI, the band has been performing as a unit for the past couple of years; its current lineup has been together for a little over a year.
     As a four piece, there is considerable room for Kate’s bass playing. Though often staying within the limits of doubling the root motion of the guitar part, her playing conveys a well-defined, large tone, which rounds out the bottom end nicely, coupled with a connected, legato feel that underpins the rhythm section. The rhythmic quality of her playing is solid, as well as the legato quality of her basslines; her rappour with the drummer, Peter, is immediately evident. The fact that she uses a traditional right hand style in this context is refreshing.
    Concerning the drumming, I find myself drawing the same conclusion as I did when I saw the band at Local 121; Peter is a man who favors understatement, and manages to compress a lot of energy in his playing. His focus seems to be on laying down the beat while helping to shape the proceedings through fills and accents played with musicality. This quality comes through even more forcefully live. His understanding of pacing and dynamics helps him communicate with the band in terms of building climaxes and the like.
     Way O’malley’s guitar playing conveys a lot of rhythm and phrase shaping, put forth in a manner that is somewhat off the beaten path of ‘traditional’ riff-writing. A good example of this is the last track off of the player on their PureVolume page, a song called ‘Yellow and Red.’ The verse riff is composed of two alternating two bar phrases. The second phrase is a little lower in register than the first. Aside from syncopating against the drums in a way that drives the beat, the riff is developed through the course of the song as the sections change; this development extends the emotional range of the song, and also complements Jane’s vocal line nicely.
     Jane is well suited to the task of fronting the band. She actually sings; in tune, and with a clearly articulated upper register that allows her to cut through the guitar line. The music geek in me is wondering if she has ever received any coaching, because listening to her closely reveals strong breath support during register shifts, full presence throughout the whole of her range, and good dynamic contrast. In other words, she sounds like she has some formal technique.
     The music itself has a classic metal feel to it, without being able to be pigeonholed very easily. The songs are primarily played at midtempo, the emphasis obviously focusing on songwriting. This band writes songs, musical miniatures that tell stories and color your existence with emotive life. My personal favorites are ‘Too Soon’ and ‘Yellow and Red’; the former contains something vaguely teasing and sexual about it, while still being loud and musical; Jane’s performance at the 121 only served to reinforce that notion in retrospect. ‘Yellow and Red’, on the other hand, contains something compelling. It is a beautifully written song, and the oscillating quality of the guitar part matched with the shape of the vocal line grabs your attention; Jane’s singing and the emotions conveyed keep that attention in check.
     While the songs showcased on PureVolume are good, the live version of the band blows the recordings away. The band informed me that the songs posted are lo-fi demo versions, so keep that in mind when listening. My suggestion is to familiarize yourself with the band through the recordings, and then expect the songs to sound even better live. In some ways, I feel like they were playing it safe when recording the demo. This is the only way I account for the difference in energy output. Maybe they’re more suited to the stage.
     The band has one recording available now, and is currently at work on an album at Machines with Magnets. Their website is: