Mobius Band: The Loving Sounds of Static

A seeming vocal gaffe in “Detach” inaugurates The Loving Sounds of Static but that's pretty much the only miscue you'll hear over the next forty-four minutes. Put simply, The Mobius Band's premiere full-length makes good on the promise of City Vs Country, last year's Ghostly debut (in fact the trio's third EP, having been preceded by two self-released outings). Like the EP, the album blends standard rock instrumentation and electronics with the spotlight on vocalist Ben Sterling's stabbing guitar and the raucous caterwaul of bassist Peter Sax and drummer Noam Schatz. While it's tempting to draw connections to groups like The Postal Service and The Notwist, such comparisons seem contrived and, worse, inaccurate. Truth is, The Mobius Band's seamless melding of conventional guitar rock with electronic-enhanced structures, while not wholly original, sounds like nothing else but itself.

Even better, the trio's penchant for compositional intricacy helps it transcend the potential straightjacket of soft-loud dynamics and verse-chorus structures; in place of conventional songs, the album's ten pieces are hook-laden constructions that segue between episodes of guitar raunch, chiming electronic interludes, and buoyantly melodic pop with Sterling's winsome vocals the common thread holding the songs together. (It bears mentioning, however, that his singing, while adequate, lacks character despite an omnipresent hint of southern twang; it succeeds most on “You're Wrong” when he loosens the vocal reins.) While the quality level remains high throughout, certain songs illustrate the album's range. A minimal piano line, for example, imbues “Radio Coup,” primarily a buzzing throwdown of multi-tracked vocals and fuzzy guitars, with an appealing stateliness. The lovely “Twilight” emphasizes glockenspiels and electronics more than guitars, allowing lyrics about corruption and lapsed ambition to come to the fore, while “I Just Turned 18” is classic electronic pop sweetened by handclaps and a faint, Theremin-styled keyboard line. The title cut, perhaps the song closest in style to the EP, rocks out with an urgent guitar roar, Sterling's nasal singing almost buried by the trio's seething broil. Though the album's infectious material was composed over a three-year stretch (in the basement of a split-level in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, of all things), it never sounds anything less than fresh, especially when The Mobius Band bridges genres so effortlessly within a single song.

January 2006