Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Qualia - Memorial Gore

The Qualia - Memorial Gore
2011, WTII Records

A lot of unusual things happen in Brooklyn.  Where else could a quartet like Lars Casteen, Rossen Nedelchev, Chvad SB and Zakai Robbins come together?  And where else would an utter blend of musical sounds and styles solidify into the synth-based musical menagerie of The Qualia?  Growing up in Charlottesville, Casteen rebelled against the Dave Matthews-induced onslaught of commercial roots/pop/jazz/rock, seeking out the grand synthesized sounds of the new wave era.   Step forward nearly two decades and Casteen casts his pen in all musical wells, drawing forth sounds from disparate backgrounds and marrying them in catchy numbers that defy categorization. His band, The Qualia, will release their latest EP, Memorial Gore, on June 14, 2011.

Memorial Gore opens with "Guess I Lied", a mildly catchy, mid-tempo new wave number driven by an incessant, alternating bass rhythm and staccato piano.  Casteen is solid on vocals, and the song makes a decent first impression for the band.  "Triple Crown" finds The Qualia sounding a great deal like Canadian rockers 54-40.  Heavy electronic effects, a big bass sound and big hooks make for an intriguing background, but Casteen sounds so much like Neil Osborne it's a bit scary.  "World Gets Around" is a stark story song with a sudden cut ending that will surprise you in its pure sensibility.  Things get a bit bland beside a wall of sound approach on "Keep It Coming", but The Qualia recovers somewhat with the meandering, electronically enhanced ballad "Fat On The Baby".  Memorial Gore closes with the danceable new wave of "Volcanoe (Diogenes Club Mix)".  This is middle of the road pop/dance material that you can move to, but won't particularly move you.

Memorial Gore finds The Qualia seemingly casting about for something - a sound; a style; a hook..  it's not entirely clear where the band is going.  That's sort of the point, to read their bio on their website, but makes it particularly difficult for the band to connect with fans.  There's little or no commonality throughout the six-song EP that helps to build a connection for listeners, other than the utter variability of the experience.  While this will hold fascination for some, it's the sort of fascination that tends to flee as the next new something comes along.  The Qualia show themselves to be musical solid on Memorial Gore, and Lars Casteen certainly displays chops as a singer and songwriter, but the net impression left of The Qualia at the end of Memorial Gore is of a band still trying to figure out just who they are musically, and trying to do too many things in the process.

Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Qualia at www.thequalia.com or www.myspace.com/thequalia.   Memorial Gore dropped on June 14, 2011.  The album is available for pre-order via Amazon.com as a CD or Download.