The Bird Ensemble: Evensong
Happy Prince

For those who prefer their post-rock more elegant and restrained than epic and bombastic, there's The Bird Ensemble. Eschewing the soft-loud extremes and peaks-and-valleys that listeners have come to associate with MONO and Explosions In The Sky, The Bird Ensemble charts a course characterized by lesser dynamic contrast yet one nevertheless intricately designed. The group members—guitarists Michael Hix and Kyle Williams (who met at Nashville's Belmont University in 2005), keyboardist Cara Pollock, bassist Charlie McClain, and drummer Brandon Duncan—also opt for a largely natural-sounding blend of chiming guitars, bright piano melodies, and robust drumming, with the nine pieces on the group's second full-length feeling like live takes free of electronics or post-editing.

The stately intro “Bop Bop (in memoriam)” and “A Fool's Errand” are decent enough openers, but the album kicks into higher gear with the advent of “The Glamour of Noble Poses” where a mood of controlled euphoria is bolstered by some lovely piano playing. “Oaxaca Variation No.1” then makes good on its promise with a guitar-fueled trek that segues between high-spirited gallops and episodes of plaintive reverie. Other post-rock outfits would do well to study “The Wayside” and “Canopy Summer” for lessons in well-modulated group interplay and dynamics and “Broken Fields” for an example of just how powerful—transcendent even—a dreamy chord progression can be when executed with care. If there's a downside, it's that Evensong doesn't advance the established post-rock template to any radical degree, nor does it ever work up too great a sweat during its forty-three minutes. What it does do, however, is illustrate that there's room for a sublety in a genre that all too readily latches onto the aforementioned loud-soft model as if there's no other.

January 2010