For those who fell in love with Earth’s post-millennial reincarnation as a ghost town blues band, the movements of Samuel Carl Adams’ “Tension Study” will no doubt feel familiar. It’s an elephantine ballet; a precise alternation between hesitation (stifled percussion, muted muscle contraction) and luxurious release – a to-and-fro of sonic glottal stops and soft decays, feeding taut potential into outward release as levitating vibraphones become open guitar strums and hi-hat exhales. Each instrument feels as though it’s straining against a length of rope, poised in constellations of sporadic low note thumbs and notes that hang in the ether unclaimed, waiting for equilibrium to sweep down and take them.
It’s just guitar and percussion, and each composition is the result of the pair working in parallel and counter-balance: guitar swirls upward to blanket the negative space left by the decay of chiming cymbal, while those triumphant pops of major key and bass drum radiate with the reactive glow of mutual thought. Adrian Knight’s “Family Man” carries this dynamic beautifully, and while guitar spurts into the sky like sherbet powder – fizzing with the fantasy of romance – cymbals roll out like a rug of sonorous blurs, ready to catch the jubilation on the inevitable way down. Even when “Repetitive Stress” inverts the image completely (crumpled dissonance and stumbling rhythms, like a Dillinger Escape Plan held together with masking tape), the warmth of symbiosis is there to cradle the rust and boisterous heavy metal worship, maintaining a straight line of continuity through the album’s zigzag of constant contrast.