Band – Common Center
Album/Label – To Swallow Something Half Your Size / Unsigned
Rating – 4.5 / 5
Having released their debut full-length album “Gypsy River” in 2015, Common Center have released an EP of new material (April 27, 2018).
“To Swallow Something Half Your Size” is comprised of five tracks from the self-described psychedelic progressive fusion band. Or as I would describe them, “spectral gypsy folk rock with a hint of Morphine-infused Jefferson Airplane.”
The seven-piece ensemble hailing from Covington, KY, includes Liam Hall (vocals/guitar), Lewis Connell (keyboards/vocals), Sasha Suskind (saxophone), Jessica Graff (vocals/violin), Dennis DeZarn (bass), Ian Smith (vocals/percussion) and Adam Gockenbach (drums).
The new music, again, transports the listener to an easily imagined Medieval setting that is at once contemplative, while also transcendent. The intermingling of dynamic rhythms with euphonious tones showcases their musicianship in a way that is aurally pleasing throughout the five songs.
Beginning with an old-world gypsy feel as Graff sets the journey in motion, All My Wishes Rise to Meet the Sun intertwines wonderful harmonies with a rhythmic foreboding sense of unease. The tempo changes within the song structure work with an ease that is refreshing to the ear.
Not Dependent on Need or Want begins with a classical styling that is dark in nature. It opens into an almost sexual feeling when Suskind’s saxophone softly enters, becoming invitingly warm. The sax and violin interplay weaves operatic peaks, while falling back into a darker tone as the song progresses. The musical prowess of the entire band is on full display on this track.
Sewn in History marks the midpoint of the EP and was the first single released. The dream-like overtones continue, with the start-stop timing serving to keep the listener from falling into a false sense of routine expectation. The multi-part vocal harmonies work beautifully, building to a crescendo. “You’re food for the pelican,” indeed.
Kicks in the Reef builds in intensity for the first 120 seconds, before an aural landscape of fantasy-like images swim through your imagination. Moving back-and-forth between dream and reality, the lyrics ask if we’re alone, with the cerebral nature of the question forcing you to contemplate its meaning.
The EP closes with Prism, carrying a slower pace that is very reminiscent of a Tom Waits tale. There is an almost haunted carnival-like atmosphere that surrounds the song, with the words “no sense of escape…” adding poignancy to the dirge-like number. It’s a fitting way to bring the extended play to its conclusion.
The poetic nature of Common Center’s lyrics, coupled with excellent musicianship throughout the songs shows the band maturing from their 2015 full-length effort. This is a band that should be bigger than they are, as they are easily good enough to play on a national scale.
My only complaint with the EP is that it left me wanting more, as the five tracks merely served to whet my appetite. That makes this a collection of music that I would highly recommend.
Common Center – Sewn in History