31 Knots
Polemics EP & The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere

With each successive release, Portland, Oregon’s indie-prog saviors 31 Knots veer further from their point(s) of origin. What began long ago as what seemed like Yes synthesis has become an astonishing insouciance for past influences, as the band capriciously shows their current penchant for odd electronica, loops, and samples. Repeating the EP-preceding-LP pattern for their previous albums, the group releases the five-song Polemics EP, followed by the full-length The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere.

The EP begins with “Sounding Out Uncertainty,” a brief sample collage that introduces “Sedition’s Wish,” a single that percolates with 31 Knots’ expert mixture of prog time signatures and upper-range vocals. “Vanish” stays the course with melodic, Steve Howe-like acoustics, jazzy drums, and Joe Haege’s flawless, Jon Anderson-esque vox. “Black Ship Auction” resembles the beginning to a double-album epic tale with copious, Rick Wakeman-ish keys, while “Endless Days” consists of shimmering keyboard backdrops that hearken back to the quieter moments of Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack.

The full-length is an edgier and more demanding but no less intriguing experience, if the opening track “Beautify,” with its gratingly mechanical loops and horn section (!), is any indication. “Sanctify” and “Hit List Shakes” tread similar ground with scratchy samples, while the horns return in “Savage Boutique” as mere embellishment to the tune’s snare shuffle and Haege’s wonderfully melodic double-tracked vocals. “Man Become Me” and “The Salted Tongue” spotlight the Yes-like (Chris) Squire/Howe bass/guitar interplay as Joe Winebrenner weaves his bass chords between Haege’s steadfast guitar lines. “Everything in Letters” has warm, jewel-like organ tones alongside Haege’s golden pipes, which segue into the stark guitar strums of “The Days and Nights of Lust and Presumption.” This in turn bleeds into “Imitation Flesh,” the latter of which is a perfect Yes-inspired excursion into enlightened prog instrumentality. The jazzy piano sonata-like quality of “Pulse of a Decimal” (with copious spare percussion) would be the ideal album closer, though the band chooses the more difficult “Walk with Caution,” another representation of their new noise-is-better philosophy.

Both releases, but especially the full-length, are challenging listens for most fans, but this intrepid trio is obviously progressing with forward momentum to spare. Despite its single-disc format, The Days and Nights will go down in 31 Knots’ rich canon of work as their Tales from Topographic Oceans, an opus that grew on hostile Yes fans after a few years.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Ayers
September 30th, 2007

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