Collections of Colonies of Bees: Giving

Though Giving presents a mere four songs, it's a nevertheless powerful argument for the music produced by the Milwaukee sextet Collections of Colonies of Bees. The group came into being when guitarist Chris Rosenau and percussionist Jon Mueller founded the band in 1998, and currently includes Thomas Wincek (piano), Jim Schoenecker (electronics), Daniel Spack (guitar), and Matthew Skemp (bass). The new release, available in both a CD format and also multi-colour vinyl, features muscular instrumental rock driven by a multi-guitar swarm and backed up by a drummer with an attack loud enough to match. The band is clearly not going through the proverbial motions, and the group's sound is generally so huge, Wincek and Schoenecker must work especially hard to be heard amidst the furor.

The guitarists sometimes band together and at other times form intricate latticeworks of chiming counterpoint, and Mueller's a veritable one-man army throughout. The drummer powers the opener “Lawn” with martial snare patterns before kicking the stabbing front-line skyward with a tom-tom-driven beat. Following a mid-song break of relative quietude, Mueller re-enters with a kick drum-and-snare combination that has such visceral force it feels like a punch to the gut. A hint of country seeps into “Vorm” when the guitarists indulge in a bit of unison picking, but Mueller grounds the track in rock with an attack as heavy as it is blazing, and the roar the band works up to as the song nears its close is a wonder to behold. “Lawns” alternates between restrained and explosive episodes where the band is able to release its pent-up energy and take flight. A late section even suggests Dick Dale caught in a duel with Mueller, before the music makes an unexpected vocal-based detour prior to a final flame-out. The album ends with “Vorms,” a nine-minute torrent that allows Wincek's piano playing to be heard during a mid-song math-rock passage that's less dominated by the drum fills and crushing guitar riffs that appear elsewhere.

It's a shame that, three years on from its last album Birds, the new release weighs in at a mere twenty-eight minutes. The upside? Not a moment's wasted, and the listener is left hungry for more. Though it hardly need be said, this is music that should only be played loud, and if Giving is any indication of how the band sounds live, hearing the group in concert must be awesome indeed.

August 2011