The Response – North of Nowhere.
Review by Robert A. Fillo
Before I get into the track by track review, i want to state that The Response has put together a full length record in a world of Indie EP’s. That alone takes huge commitment and stamina in an age of short attention spans, where 3 minute YouTube videos are now on the verge of being deemed too long. The financial, mental and even physical stamina of putting together ten songs is a big deal and can’t be discounted.
As the record begins to play, there’s an instant air of innocence. The opening track, Tear it Off, is laid back and groovy. I can’t help but think about Sufjan Stevens as the album unfolds, but it’s not a rip off by any means. It’s different. It feels original and I love that. The lead track has a slow, fat groove to it. It’s feels like rock, but it’s not. The chorus juxtaposes the verses with a beautiful harmonious release.
Here at Your Door, Track Two, has a percussive poppy feel to it. It feels light and fluffy in comparison to the first track with a sugar coating of synth riffs. It’s a confusing change in sound and feel to the first track, but well put together in it’s own right. When Track Three, Counting, hits, I wonder which band I was perviously listening to. The electric guitar and organic drum sounds fuel a delightful head bobbing groove. This track reminds me of a chilled out Odds tune.
Track Four, brings another different feel with it. No Way Out, delivers a beautiful soundscape with a deeper sense to the lyrics and a touchingly beautiful and spacey arrangement. This track has television-drama-soundtrack written all over it. I see it playing at the end of an episode where the protagonist has completed their harrowing task, only to be left in their lonely apartment to reflect on the futility of it all. Our Sherlock reaches for his heroin stash, after a decades of being clean, followed by a slow fade to black. Thus, leaving an uneasy sense of what’s to come in the next episode.
The next few tracks, Every Window, I Can Never See, Backwards, continue to explore both sparse and heavy tones with variable degrees of percussion and a sense of youthful angst. There’s a very interesting soundscape and arrangement to all of the songs and I am constantly surprised by the individuality of each one. Still the album maintains an overall sense of of continuum throughout the collection.
Track 8, Predictable Me, threw me for a loop with it’s Beetlesc drums and swinging surf rock guitar tone, followed by it’s upbeat and lively neighbour, Truth from Fiction. This song seems like the most powerful and contemporarily captivating work on the album.
Track 9, Truth from Fiction, could easily be fronted by Bono to create a U2 track. It could also be usurped by The Arcade Fire to make a natural addition to their catalog. If I was expecting a radio single from The Response, this would be their mainstream meal ticket. However, the misty dreamscape of the final anchoring track, Gone and Left Me, is my favourite. The creamy smooth verses with sultry ebow are wonderfully broken up by the modulating major/minor chorus. Such a smooth and lovely track that would fit well on Beck’s award winning album, Morning Phase.
In conclusion, this record is very original, thought provoking and somewhat enigmatic. Where did these guys come from? Andrew and Victoria Knopp are truly a diamond in the Vancouver Indie-Pop rough, originally hailing from Christchurch, New Zealand. Their entire record was made independently by the duo themselves, whilst having a professional and absorbing sound that can stand proud alongside mainstream record label releases. I would not be surprised to see this group receive international acclaim in the near future.
One thing that feels missing from North of Nowhere, is the female vocal harmonies. If you get a chance to watch The Response’s YouTube videos or listen to their other recordings, Victoria’s vocals are a strong asset to the overall sound. I found that they weren’t as apparent, as I would like, on North of Nowhere. When they sing together, there’s a real bond apparent in the vocal harmonies that I would liken to Belle and Sebastian or Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan.
If you want to take a fresh and surprising musical journey with an incredibly committed indie duo, make sure to pick up North of Nowhere. I am thoroughly impressed to hear this quality of music coming out of Vancouver or New Zealand….or wherever… Keep up the great work you two!
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written by Robert A Fillo