Well, if you've learned nothing else from this issue, it's that being in a band can be rough going. Saxon Shore almost called it quits a while back, which explains their latest album's title, The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore. But they kept on, trafficking in smart, epic instrumental rock somewhere between Tristeza (with whom they've toured Japan), M83 and the Album Leaf. It's tempting to call it dreamy, but honestly, nobody has dreams this cool.
It helps that the Philly five-piece lassoed Dave Fridmann, who turned Low and Sleater-Kinney albums into headphone-blowing experiences, to produce, engineer, mix and master—whew!—Exquisite Death. He actually shelves his trademark feedback bombs for the most part, and when they are broken out, it's alongside buzzing synths and elegant piano (see "Silence Lends a Face to the Soul").
So go most Saxon Shore songs—there are suspenseful buildups and roaring climaxes that would sound downright evil in another band's hands, but these guys possess an incandescent prettiness that's never obscured. Plus, there's just the right balance between giant crescendos and reflective downshifting to keep us interested throughout the album.
In what seems like an odd match-up, Saxon Shore are touring with fellow Philadelphian and former label mate Denison Witmer, a delicately winsome troubadour who gets help from his pal Sufjan Stevens. Witmer's spare, carefully phrased songs are worlds away from Saxon Shore's wordless headiness, which is what makes the combination so fascinating.
Rounding out the bill are San Francisco instrumentalists From Monument to Masses and the hyperactive bedroom beats of Books On Tape. If at least one of these bands doesn't keep you from a cigarette break, then perhaps there's just no pleasing you. Jerk.
Saxon Shore with From Monument to Masses, Denison Witmer and Books On Tape at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 629-0377; www.theglasshouse.us. Sun., 7 p.m. $10. All ages.
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