October 24, 2014

Review: Roomrunner | Separate EP

If you've read anything about Baltimore noise-rock unit Roomrunner, and we're guessing you have, you know people can't seem to stop saying that the foursome loves the '90s rock. The band was practically suffocated with comparisons to Nirvana and assertions that it loved grunge during its last album cycle, although we have half a memory of a sticker applied to the face of the LP that suggested Roomrunner had a pretty solid sense of humor about it. After all, what's a band to do -- at least people are paying attention, right? Well, what Roomrunner did was evolve, and to an impressive degree, in fact, as evidenced by the foursome's fourth release, the terrific and massively listenable Separate EP.

The tunes on the short set tout a less dense, more nimble mix of elements, an apparent byproduct of all four members of Roomrunner contributing to songwriting for the set. In effect, the new dynamic masterfully frees the band from the glue trap of its earlier super-saturated, sludgy sound. Where Ideal Cities was an unrelenting listen that regularly featured overwhelming fuzz, Separate is marked by a notable amount of space within even more sophisticated and tuneful compositions. Sure, no one will ever call songs like the new one "Push Down & Turn" spare, but the mechanistic EP closer "Slow" is almost as airy and fluid as a Pinback song, and shows the remarkable degree to which Roomrunner's reality is greater than its supposed influences. On "Slow" Bowen presents a lower, gravely voice, before the song shifts into a bombastic, Weezer-styled chord progression appointed by simple, effective vocal harmonies that trail off in a series of surprisingly contented "doo doo doo doos."

The more balanced -- dare we say separated -- mix of Separate de-emphasizes guitars, or at least loud distorted ones, leaving room for different tones and textures to reveal themselves. Maybe they were there all along, hiding in the corners, paved over in album mixes by colossal guitars and explosive, room-filling drumming. Speaking of, notable EP opener "Ms. DNA" is packed tightly with some chunky, floor-stomping 4/4, but veers into a nifty 7/4 bridge. Fronter Denny Bowen smartly matches his nasal, distorted vocal to the tune serrated riff during the verses, making the song a fairly irresistible calling card for the collection. Dynamite preview track "Chrono Trigger" and its no-less-awesome-but-more-ridiculously-titled successor "ESPN Zone," instead of looking across the country (and the decades), seem to find inspiration in more proximal D.C. post-hardcore acts like Jawbox -- which, incidentally, was fronted by the EP's producer, J. Robbins -- or Shudder To Think. As the EP winds down the band continues to fluidly shift gears, executing some exciting dynamic shifts and entertaining some lighter, occasionally even jangly guitar. It's a new morning for Roomrunner, and we are very stoked to hear the next full-length set.

The Separate EP was released Tuesday via Accidental Guest on 12" vinyl or digital download; you can acquire the vinyl right here and the ones and zeroes right here. A bunch of live dates are posted at the act's Bandcamp right here; assuming you are reading this review the moment it goes live, you are probably missing Roomrunner's hometown show tonight, but the act is slated to perform in America's Living Room, a/k/a The Silent Barn in Brooklyn, tomorrow night, Oct. 25. -- A Dillon Riley and Jay Breitling joint

Roomrunner: Bandcamp | Facebook

That Was The Show That Was: Roomrunner with Shannon And The Clams | Great Scott | 17 June

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