One of the more enjoyable aspects of hearing a new release, regardless of one's choice of style, is the universal enjoyment found in coming across a recording that truly catches the listener off guard.
If New York art rock act Heston Rifle induce any effect with What to Do at Time of Accident, it is precisely that. Despite the fact that this recording marks their first full-length release, What to Do at Time of Accident falls upon the ears with a surprising compositional maturity. The casual flippancy woven into some of the chosen song titles (e.g., "can you guess how much that guy weighs") humorously betrays the substance of the recording within.
The material is instrumental--- which might, as a matter of reflex, put some persons off. For any band, this is not the most comfortable path to embark upon. Such music--- even when made in an earnest attempt to "blow minds"--- can drag and lull, deadening any potential possibility of stimulating the senses. Fortunately, the attention and effort Heston Rifle invested upon the arrangements and stylistic gleanings contained within the tracks on What to Do at Time of Accident induce no such adverse side effects.
Rhythmically, the approach meanders with a feel often found in jazz structures (much more so than in conventional rock), although it rarely delves into sheer free tempo. The percussion throughout the recording is a superbly calculated smorgasbord. It is crisp, sharp, and duly present where the accents call for it--- though its background dynamics are equally apt, moving the sound's space with its fills, ghost notes, and rest stops. The bass is well mixed, being warmly "mid-sized" into the sound, which wisely allows the instrument to travel with ease between its duty to the rhythm section, as well as to play its part in contributing real notational texture to the harmonies.
Melodically, the inclusion of a violinist ( and a cellist in certain tracks ) reveals an act which is making statements, but musical statements to be sure. No tawdry posturing with fashionable attire or publicity stunts--- Heston Rifle do it where it really counts; namely, the music. The guitars play a range from thinly chorused, to richly delayed, to a reeling, crunchy din. They are rarely uniform in the notational sense, often working off of separate passages, but merging to create a rich, chordal depth--- something which is without abundance in much of the indie rock universe. The violinist caps the highest frequencies, and proves crucial to the collective effort. It swells and falls with a kind of sonic respiration--- often opting for decidedly melancholic tones--- tones which imbue the recording throughout with a unmistakably nocturnal, Gypsyish quality.
At times adroit, at times coarse, and always whirring with tonality, Heston Rifle offer a distinct production, sure to catch--- and subsequently finesse--- the ear.