There is an omnipresent quality to ‘Changing Modes’ that the group are obviously more than aware of when the title of the group reflects essentially 2 and a half minutes anywhere in any of their songs. What we have is ‘beyond the music,’ a chameleon-like ability to transform into any able-bodied ‘genre’ and then, just as the comfort even remote settles, the beast changes again. ‘Changing Modes’ do this with professional bizarreness, leaping ably from crescendo-laden horn sections to operatic breakdowns, to prototypical pop/folk (for a meter) to piano-driven balladry. Tossed in for good measure are some prog-rock solos. What a trip.
Painting this vivid palette is Wendy Griffiths, Grace Pulliam, Jen Rondeau, Yuzuru Sadashige, and David Oromaner. Each member tackles various aspects of the musical creation, a sort of legitimate sharing of work. Helming the group, clearly, is Wendy Griffiths. She takes the band back to the earliest parts, where Griffith would craft lo-fi recordings onto tape in her New York City apartment where car honks and people yelling where frequent visitors to the recorded final product. Like any good lo-fi aspirations, Griffiths wasn’t ever particularly sure where or what these songs were going to do.
‘Changing Modes’ is really hard to pinpoint down, because their eccentricities truly dive and dip moment after moment, creating an ADD-inspired experience of odd quirkiness. The music is coated in a sheen of ‘art rock,’ but this doesn’t do true justice to what is really going on here. Plus, it could unfairly turn people away who want their songs less ‘artsy.’
The group’s latest LP, ‘In Flight,’ is rife with pop hooks. The bizarreness is that they end, pick up, and disappear entirely at any random moment, creating a hodge-podge cookie-cutter affect that can remain invigorating and refreshing while also being a bit unsettling. The songs are lined with a tension, naturally occurring from this structure. If you can’t hear the musical stress in songs like ‘Nature of the Beast’ and ‘Down to You’ you are hardly listening hard enough.
Being five albums deep, it is quite admirable that ‘Changing Modes’ is still an active entity at their stage in the musical ladder. But was that ever the point? You ask Griffiths who undoubtedly still holds true to her indie roots with basement tapes filling the halls, and every bleeding edge of every eccentric verse and hook is illuminated by an artist who sincerely wants to jar and awaken the listener. ‘In Flight’ is an odd listen, there is no doubt there. But given the chance, it can shake the wavering disillusions you have about music and it’s ability to do oh-so many things in such a short period of time. It’s a fun ride through the dark and fun and weird, and through it all, you have ecstatic trumpets, quirky lyrics, and 80’s new wave. All in the day of a wild day.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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