The Life and Times
The Magician/Split EP w/ Nueva Vulcano EP's

As true music fans, we hate to see our favorite bands go their separate ways, and the eventual break-up of Kansas City, Missouri’s post-hardcore heroes Shiner in 2002 was the equivalent of the earth cracking open and fire raining down from the skies. Thankfully, the recent trend of reunions allows us to look forward to the group (with the original line-up, of course) getting back together, ironing out their differences, and embarking on a final-and-we-mean-it-this-time tour, and maybe even recording a few new songs for posterity. That’s the dream, at least.

The reality, however, is inevitably grim. Bandmates move on to perform in mostly mediocre bands, and Shiner were no different. Frontman Allen Epley happened upon a couple of like-minded musicians, and together they formed The Life and Times. Their debut EP, 2003’s The Flat End of the Earth (on Michigan indie label 54°40′ or Fight!), didn’t set the world on fire but sowed the seeds that would mature on their next release, 2005’s Suburban Hymns (this time on DeSoto). And mature they did, effortlessly replacing Shiner’s math-rock melodies with dense, emo/prog riffage. Overseas label attention has resulted in two EPs of shimmering algebra from opposite sides of the Asian continent.

Japan’s Stiff Slack (the geniuses responsible for the re-release of Shiner’s 2001 opus The Egg with two bonus tracks) releases the five-song The Magician, rife with beauteous fervor. “I Know You Are” and “Hush” have very similar structures, and throughout their respective courses they erect massive walls of sound, buttressed by copious pedal effects and echoes. Not to wear out their welcome, they fade out after extensive guitar-noise midpoints. The more subdued “Killing Them Softly” contains a cleverly placed, completely synchronized hi-hat sample that blossoms intermittently during Epley’s ringing chords. The rollicking “Ave Maria” has repeating chords like a more shoegazer U2, as drummer Chris Metcalf demonstrates perfectly hand-muted cymbal washes. Amid the big Shiner-esque choruses, Eric Abert steps up with a beastly bass line that’s smacks of the same from Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days.”

TLAT team up with Spanish post-rockers Nueva Vulcano for a three-song-each split on Spain’s Trece Grabaciones. While NV prefer an almost Dinosaur Jr. discordance for their trio of tunes, TLAT chooses the gentle path, starting with the ‘Muscle Cars’ remix of Suburban Hymns’ “My Parade,” brimming with bleeps and blips by Freeman Moxy. For the instrumental “The Silent Take,” Epley unstraps his guitar in favor of the warm tones of his Rhodes piano, resulting in Ebert’s bass taking the foreground in long moments similar to Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” A slower take on Grant Lee Buffalo’s “Mighty Joe Moon” polishes off the proceedings.

Though he excels in spinning a cocoon of reverberating chord progressions around the listener, Epley puts too many effects on his already gilded pipes. It’s a shame because his incredibly distinctive voice in Shiner was always so stripped down and honest. With any hope, he’ll return his real voice to fans on the next installment of The Life and Times; until then, The Magician, of the two EPs, is absolutely essential.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Ayers
June 19th, 2007


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