Dowsing / The Cardboard Swords / Long Knives / Sinai Vessel
CYLS Split #4
by Chad Jewett
The CYLS Split Series has served as something of an emo state of the union, ranging from the all-time-great convening of Annabel, Empire! Empire!, Joie De Vivre, and The Reptilian in 2011 to the uneven teaming of Dikembe, Hightide Hotel, Jet Set Monument, and Monument (the latter of whom were the EP’s highlight) on Volume 3. Volume 4 finds the venerable Michigan-based label assembling songs from Dowsing, The Cardboard Swords, Long Knives, and Sinai Vessel — a starting lineup of freshman anchored by a sturdy veteran senior. It’s an apt metaphor for the increasing ways in which Count Your Lucky Stars is using these splits to broach new bands, but it belies the ways in which Dowsing, who are really the EP’s sole established group, continue to carve away at their own aesthetic. At once more sharply wiry and notably focused, their contribution “Cutoff (Blades, Blades, & Even More Blades)” finds the quartet warping their familiar Something To Write Home About bounce with a bit of Q and Not U’s angles and/or Hot Rod Circuit’s garage-around-the-edges pop-punk. It’s a welcome, if subtle, adjustment, and it’s the best Dowsing have sounded in ages.
The Cardboard Swords’ “How I Met Your Dragon Mother” works in Kinsella-guitar ripples (though, happily, The Cardboard Swords also seemed to have paid attention to Owen’s ear for hooks), but the drums move with stylish freedom and singer Tyler DeCoeur’s plaintive tenor actually makes a virtue of the notes that wobble a bit above his range. There’s rhythm and atmosphere here; and personality. The song’s packed two-and-a-half minutes operate like a stack of superimposed images, one riff bleeding into another, choruses wafting in like sighs. 2015 has seen a maddeningly dull spate of post-hardcore bands chasing the woozy romance of dream-pop and shoegaze. The Cardboard Swords manage all of that windswept poetry without dulling their own bright, elusively jazzy grasp on second-wave emo. It’s perhaps because of the easy major-key warmth of “How I Met Your Dragon Mother” that the gloomy minor key haze that floats in ahead of Long Knives’ “Thaw” ends up being so striking. The song’s opening movement remains its best. Ironically, the paired voices of Kris Moya and Matt Bartels are at once too buried and never quiet allowed to gel, giving “Thaw” an unsettled aura, the sound of an idea being chased and just missed.
Sinai Vessel, whose excellent 2014 EP Profanity was a humble tour de force that seemingly came out of nowhere, finally return with “I Quit The Choir”. As with Profanity, singer Caleb Cordes continues to ask tough questions, this time with an Evan Weiss-esque hopscotching melody and a pair of mouthful verses, all atop a carefully assembled composition that sways with delicate grace like something from Saves The Day’s In Reverie before suddenly speeding up into a quick, rolling outro. The song is filled with ideas: some of mewithoutYou’s pomp and circumstance here; a toothy In Rainbows-reminiscent guitar figure there. Like the best of Profanity, Sinai Vessel seemingly have the imagination to move any which way at a moment’s notice, and the skill to make it all feel gorgeously natural.