I was very, very happy to receive an email from Bandcamp telling me that Bag Of Bones had just released their third full-length, mainly because their second full-length, last years On Moving On was one of my favourite lesser known releases of 2013, and one of the first I reviewed on this site. Third Dimension follows around eight months later, and it’s every bit as good as its predecessor, if not even better.
I looked back on my initial review before sitting down to write this, and my main point of reference seemed to be American Football, and the same sort of influence punctuates a lot of Third Dimension, although the band often opt for a heavier post-rock approach in the instrumentals, stirring up comparisons to This Will Destroy You, most notably on Spit’’s dynamic final minute, which sounds huge. At other times gorgeous, melodic soundscapes underlie sombre passionate vocals on the albums mellower tracks like the excellent Cold Hands, but the addition of ‘heavier’ elements throws a bit of variety into the mix, making for a record which is still emotional and absorbing but offers much more. The eight members that make up Bag Of Bones seem more willing to branch out and expand their musical envelope, and as a result their sound is still warm, but has a bit more punch to it as well. It’s a step forward that the band executes excellently, and it’s a solid improvement over both their debut Deep Thought and last year’s release. It also means that the instrumental side of Third Dimension carries much more weight, with the lyrics and differing vocals taking a back seat for the most part. The majority of songs start slow and build gradually, as Woodcliff Lake does, adding layers over a simple acoustic backbone before bursting into life. Although the lyrics play a smaller part they’re still emotional and well-penned, sticking with the hazy sort of melancholy that’s worked in the past, with lines like ‘A smile you wrote three years ago / stuck in my head’ standing out. Each song only features around ten lines at most, but those lines are still memorable, if a little less adventurous. The spoken word extracts of nostalgic opener Sacred Geometry and fifth track Blue Moonlight work well, and the latter has shades of Old Gray in the way in which Matt Amandola expresses himself through poetry. The few longer tracks benefit from their length, although only two entries pass the two and a half minute mark, and for the most part Third Dimension is full of short, sombre and occasionally explosive songs, with the addition of instruments like sax, trombones and pianos adding something different throughout, shining through on Reading Between Lines and the aforementioned Cold Hands, which is one of the records stand-out tracks. The shorter tracks do mean that Third Dimension seems to pass by too quickly; faster than its twenty-four minute length suggests, but for the quality the record contains it’s a small complaint.
Third Dimension is a rich and ambient record that never really meanders, and instead tiptoes along bar a few heavier selections like closer Rogue Encampment which explodes into life before dropping off, only to bounce back with some of the records more aggressive vocals. It’s a contrast to The Wisp, which precedes it, as this track seems to drift unrestrained, apt for a song about hiding away and falling asleep. Along with Woodcliff Lake the final three songs were probably my favourite portion of the record, and Woodcliff Lake is what I’d consider to be Third Dimension’s best track, and not just because it’s the longest, but because it features some of the more encompassing instrumentals and shifts halfway through, quickening the pace and upping the emotion from a brief acoustic filler. It’s a majestic track, and despite featuring some of the bleaker lyrics (‘I think I was born to waste my life and wait to die / I was never destined to be alive‘) it manages to put a listener completely at ease, and it sums up everything I’ve come to love about music of this type, being expansive, emotional and expertly crafted. There’s an odd sort of comfort to be taken from Third Dimension, and it’s an absorbing and reflective listen which sounds effortlessly cool at the same time.
As a whole, Third Dimension is an excellent progression which keeps the intricate and clever musicianship of past works and merges it with a more intense delivery at times. With their third full-length Bag Of Bones continue to carve out their own unique sound which captures emotional outpourings and pairs them with a bed of noise both abrasive and humbling, and it’s a sound to absolutely lose yourself in. It’s currently ‘name your price’ on Bandcamp, and it’s definitely worth whatever you choose to pay for it.
Rating – 8/10
Buy / stream it here: http://bagofbones.bandcamp.com/album/third-dimension