June 30, 2003

Ester Drang "Infinite Keys"

"Wispy." By definition, it means "someone or something thin, frail, or slight; A thin or faint streak or fragment, as of smoke or clouds; a fleeting trace or indication, a hint, a suggestion." I don't think I could possibly come up with a better word to describe Infinite Keys, the second album by Broken Arrow, Oklahoma's Ester Drang.

I guess making such grand, beautiful, wind-blown music comes natural to natives of Oklahoma. While I normally shy away from arguments that link a band's sound to its natural habitat, in the case of Ester Drang, I have to make an exception. If you drive through the Oklahoma countryside, you'll encounter a lovely variety of hills, trees, and flatlands. Basically...it's barren. Sure, there are some cities here and there, but Oklahoma seems to be a bit, well...desolate. It's kind of like Utah with more tornadoes. I remember driving through the state and thinking, "I'm glad I don't live here...it's so....flat."

Infinite Keys is an album that's most definitly sunburned and wind-blown, and though their sound may seem a tad familiar (especially if you own records by Coldplay or Radiohead), Ester Drang never fall guilty to the charge of 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.' Though Infinite Keys is cold, cool, and distant, it is by no means perfect. Ester Drang hit a melodic, stoned-out groove (thanks in part to the loving hand of Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel's Matt Pence, who knows a thing or two about stoned-out grooves) but they never leave it, and as such the songs tend to run together; if you don't pay attention, you won't notice that they've changed songs, and singer Bryce Chambers sings so lightly, it's occasionally hard to understand what he's saying. It's a bit problematic, too; you'll hear really pretty music, but it would be easy not to notice, as Infinite Keys just floats away into the air and just doesn't leave much of an impression.

Despite the fact that the music runs together so seamlessly, Infinite Keys is certainly far from a bad record. True, if you've spent any time with Parachutes or OK Computer, you'll understand at least part of where Ester Drang is coming from. Even though the album's kind of slippery, songs such as "All the Feeling" and "One Hundred Times" shiver and sparkle so nicely, it makes you wish that 'modern rock' radio wasn't such a closed-off world, for both would make wonderful summertime radio hits. All in all, Infinite Keys is a wonderfully pleasant, chilling, cool listen.

--Joseph Kyle

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