31 Knots
The Curse of the Longest Day EP/Talk Like Blood

For many years now, Portland, Oregon has been lucky to have indie prog-popsters 31Knots residing within its boundaries. With three critically-acclaimed releases on Michigan’s 54’40’ or Fight! Records, the band’spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Joe Haege’has moved to the Illinois-based Polyvinyl label and released two excellent discs.

2004’s The Curse of the Longest Day EP was previously available as a Japanese import on Stiff Slack, but Polyvinyl has lovingly re-released it for domestic worship and consumption. ‘Welcome to Stop’ hearkens back to the Steve Howe/Yes leanings of 2003’s It Was High Time to Escape, as the band wears their prog influences prominently on their sleeves. ‘The Corpse and the Carcass,’ however, takes a different tack with Haege’s dominant piano and flawlessly mellifluous pipes (as if Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder was really a former opera singer). An uncredited instrumental track, an ambient slice of Pink Floyd sparring with Mandible Chatter, is placed in the middle of the disc before the gentle rock of ‘The Story of Ivan Normal.’ Haege’s Howe-like Gibson guitar spins the delicate tale of ‘Coward With Claws’ as its shifting samples add an intriguing electronic backdrop to the tune, ending with effectively spare string strummings.

Ultimately, though the EP is a perfect mix of the heavy and fragile elements of 31Knots, the eleven-track Talk Like Blood full-length (recorded in early 2005) truly puts the band through their paces. In fact, fans might feel a bit apprehensive after hearing opening track ‘City of Dust”very experimental pop with half spoken-word vocals, half Haege’s double-tracked harmonies’but those fears are dashed away with the onset of ‘Hearsay’ and its Police-styled reggae tendencies. ‘Thousand Wars’ sounds like the jangly pop that put Wisconsin’s Space Bike on the map, and ‘Institution Imperfected’ boasts an accordion loop over a loping gait like mid-career Primus, post-Pork Soda. One of the highlights of the album, the six-minute ‘Chain Reaction’ single not only reprises Howe’s genius with Yes, it also shows the exquisite basslines of Jay Winebrenner. Another uncredited track follows as a mid-album breathing mark of muted ambient noise before ‘A Void Employs a Kiss,’ which smacks of Yes’ Jon Anderson’s solo material with Howe. The title track sports a looped strings sample ‘ la 27 with accented notes that mimic Golden Earring’s famous rhythm tracks on ‘Radar Love.’ A faultless paradigm of the band’s full-bodied, off-kilter pop, the first section of ‘Busy Is Bold’ sounds like a lengthened version of one of Dillinger Escape Plan’s jazzy interludes, while the latter parts are like late-career Faith No More with keyboards and drummer Jay Pellicci’s groovy snare/tomtom shuffle.

Both releases, but especially Talk Like Blood, expand the trio’s sheer musical talent in showcasing their phenomenal songwriting ability. As with the truly great prog bands (Rush, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, et al.), 31Knots offer a challenging yet gratifying listen, as they deserve more recognition.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Ayers
June 12th, 2005

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