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The White Octave

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"One ... Two ... Three ... Four ... " and the rock begins with a pick-to-string slide to a gigantic power chord turning into distorted, droning guitars giving way to choppy, stereophonic harmony guitar riffs and screeching vocals building to such a pitch that, if unrestrained, might deafen you completely so that you might never hear again and possibly even go blind as the whole thing races right up to the edge and stops. Ping. A cymbal brings everything back to a full sprint by introducing a slinky, rumbling bass line. And so, with "The Constant is Zero," Chapel Hill's The White Octave kicks off their solid, second long-player.

Produced with aplomb by Bob Weston (Archers of Loaf, Chavez) Menergy aches with intelligently structured, sincerely emotive indie-rock a la D.C. post-punk, soaring and cresting across a variety of rhythms and combinations of bass/two-guitars/drums. "Animal Chin" kicks muted-down picking guitars as singer-guitarist Stephen Pedersen (formerly of Cursive) wails: "Why you searching, why you searching for an even hold/I'm not waiting, I'm not waiting for your love to grow cold." Brooding over the chiming guitars of "La Vista," Pedersen pleads "Come on and save us from this hell." And "Move in Time" starts off with an extended play on the Van Halen "Cradle Will Rock" bass line before decidedly non-Halen-esque guitar chord harmonies send it off in another direction entirely.

Vocally, Pedersen sounds a bit like Ian MacKaye (Fugazi, Minor Threat) but--and don't take this the wrong way--there's also a faint echo of The Cure's Robert Smith in there somewhere.

Menergy maintains a vague pop sensibility while exploring quieter terrain through various song intros and breaks, but The White Octave return throughout to smartly constructed, carefully controlled distorted guitar parts; plunky bass; pounding drums and emotive upper-register vocals. That is, except for the album's closer, "Menstrumental," an anomalously delicate piano/keyboard/trumpet/guitar-harmony meditation that's more goodbye-hug than after-dinner mint.

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