Bless These Sounds Under the City — a duo comprised of Albert Strawn and Derrick Hines — released its debut, self-titled album in 2014. That 13-track effort offered a showcase of the band's minimalist style while showing enough diversity in sounds and presentation to shed light on the breadth of each member's talents.
Now, two years later, the band has released the 12-track On the Brink of Life which builds off of the debut showing maturity in songwriting, instrumentation and presentation. From the start, the duo shows the talents that weren't always evident, but always present, on the debut.
From the Radiohead-esque opening track, "The Sleeping 8," to the Gorillaz cadence of "A Clever Disguise"; from the folk-inspired "Salt in the Waves" featuring Charlie Wofford on cello to the percussion-driven, poetic "Warming the Frozen Star," Bless These Sounds continues down the path of its debut and makes strides by leaps and bounds here. It's worth noting that the band also gets help from bassist Andy LaMaster and El Malpais flutist Jude Salinas.
The frantic hip-hop of "Suspended in Hypnosis" might seem out of place — unless you're familiar with Strawn's solo work. A frequent performer at the Find Your Muse open mic night at the Evening Muse, Strawn often experimented with electronics and sonic landscapes.
Where Bless These Sounds' debut album offered glimpses of talent and the promise of a bright pathway, On the Brink of Life is the fruition of those talents and the album one only hoped would come out of the group. Where the band was formerly "one to watch" or keep an eye on within the Charlotte landscape, the new album takes it a step further and says, "This is the band you need to pay attention to intently." Pencil this one in for one of the top local albums of the year.