The Sands Beast to Bone CD review

by • January 17, 2015 • Album Reviews, Articles, BC Musicians, Current Issue, Front Page, Read Online, ReviewsComments (0)1423


Beast To Bone
The Sands

So much music continues to be created in that mode of writing the hit, then filling the other 9 or 10 tracks with a best effort. There are numerous bands that are feeling success right now — and fairly acquired as it’s a tough business for anyone looking to earn a living — where one can envision the car or mobile phone commercial that their well-crafted hit tune will accompany as soon as it reaches the right marketing ears.

Which is why I highly respect musicians that have the patience and resources to craft all of their songs into one long story. It’s like reading the novel in paper form, all the way through.

There is theatricality in the entire composition that is Beast to Bones, the first album from The Sands. The album is a performance, but it is not a soundtrack. At least not until there is a production for it. It has tension, character development, surprise, and satisfaction, presented with an insistent yet delicate touch.

Julie McGeer and Peggy Lee are The Sands, supported by daring and clever musicianship that, as they point out in their liner notes, “comprises over a hundred years of musical experience.” One listen through the album and it’s not hard to hear the influence of Jesse Zubot, both producer on this album and violinist. If you have seen or heard him perform you will recognize that stridently hypnotizing thread of cat gut vibration behind most tracks and particularly pulling track 4, City is Gone, into 5, the enticing Against the Drift.

But the Zubot effect is just one aspect of this opus. The horns have been arranged by Peggy Lee, who also plays cello and piano. She appears regularly on other recordings but is also the head of the Peggy Lee Band and integral member of Music in Film and Waxwing. This partnership with Julie McGeer’s poetry and mostly minor chord vocals works very well. Also supporting McGeer and Lee are: JP Carter (trumpets & effects) Paul Rigby (electric and acoustic guitar), Cole Schmidt (electric guitar), Darren Parris (electric bass), Jeremy Berkman (trombone), and the vocals of Debra Jean Creelman.

The only track that McGeer and Lee did not write is Jealous Guy, John Lennon’s 1971 tune that Wikipedia tells me has been covered 92 times (make that 93), including a rock version by Faces with Rod Stewart on their Five Guys Walked Into a Bar compilation. The Sands’ version is gorgeously rendered with Lee’s horn arrangements and the result is a tender jazz apology. I can hear why they were drawn to cover this song, though at first I was surprised. They have turned it into an art song. Arguably it stands as the album’s fulcrum, tipping towards the denouement of the composition.

Beast to Bones has been described in one way as indie pop. It’s not heavy but it’s not lightweight either, which is what pop of any persuasion infers. Clearly we need better categories. Poetic eclectic? Jazz miasma? Let’s just call it a complete musical experience worthy of many listens, and an encore.

– Leanne V. Nash

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