For several years now we have been listening to records from Constellation, Fat Cat, or Temporary Residence in which slow burning harmonic shifts and crystal guitar sounds conjur up dreams of a cleaner and better world - even in the grimiest venues and the most broken down cities.
ThreeKseven have the dream and the skill to reinvent the idea - midpoint in a triangle between God Speed! You Black Emperor, Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky. Heroically, and tragically, this isn't a promising starting position for a brand new band looking for an audience, and it isn't a productive end-position for a band looking for its own destiny as a musical force.
Admittedly, and without reservation, The Halcyon EP sounds very fine. It comprises three tracks and 18 minutes of dreamy and gently dramatic sounds.
Track one "ebb" has prominent but rather invariant drumming and an organ in the middle section. But the chord progressions are the obvious ones and the layers are just what you would expect of a band who grew up liking the unapproachably wonderful Sigur Ros. The guitar comes in like a sharp blade to give that euphoric lift. It gets gradually louder, then it fades out.
"Green is not your enemy" sets off with some even harder drumming, but quickly gets those bell-like guitar sounds into the frame, with filmic keyboard making it big. Then a huge fat bass, almost as good as Explosions in the Sky. But the tune isn't doing much and the general direction becomes indistinguishable from "ebb". Gradually building the volume, extra sounds and notes are edged in. There's a circular theme that picks up decoration (like xylophone) as it swirls on to the end.
Title track "Halcyon" has a very Sigur Ros backwards tape and vocal noise to get it going. Then more of the same sorts of musical gentility. The Halcyon of Greek myth (one the Seven Sisters turned into a kingfisher) sent her nest into the sea in the middle of winter. The Gods, fearing for the eggs made the sea calm for 14 days. Part way into "halcyon" there is some subliminal Morse code that just might be a message from some distant, but very calm ocean. There's a little sine wave generation and lots more of that chiming guitar. Choirboy like vocals ooh and aah at various places.
So, excellent though the execution surely is, the unavoidably close comparisons with other exponents will not help. Half way to paradise just doesn't do it for me. If these guys do live improvisation, there might be a lot more to say for the general approach. The demo certainly confirms their right to a stage and an attentive audience in any Leeds venue. My instinct tells me that once they've played through this early work, some more profound musical discoveries will move them on and threeKseven's recordings will start to have their own independent existence.