Bethany Curve’s first, self-produced, album came in while preparation was underway for Nocturne Concrète. It was frankly amazing. Probably the best demo tape we’ve ever heard. They became the first band to officially “sign” with Unit Circle Rekkids. They followed up this great record with the stellar “Gold” and “You Brought Us Here”.
Bethany Curve's specialty is lots of layered sound. The vocals of Richard Millang and Ray Lake softly soar, while Chris Preston on bass, and David Mac Wha on drums, keep a steady beat. My first thought upon hearing the eight-minute long Vanish, is that it reminds me of The Cure in one of their moodier moments. In fact, many of the songs here have that sound -- particularly the guitars. However, the vocals are quite different. I don't like to compare performers to others, but keep in mind that I do this from time to time in my reviews to help my readers get the best possible idea of what the music is like.
Spacirelei is a track that's also featured on the Nocturne Concrete Compilation that I have also reviewed here. Terpsichore starts out as a lovely melancholy song, and evolves into noise. Lots of innovation here. The intriguingly titled Door 2416 is a lush tune with sweet vocals, while Grend Shanka becomes more sinister in tone. Almost Perception brings things to a close as one of the best songs on the CD. (Note: Bethany Curve have had one other release since Skies A Crossed Sky.)
I love it when music just seems to pour out of the speakers like this. There is a steady beat, and snuggled up right next to it the bass repeats the same phrase over and over, then this long whining guitar note fades in like it was coming from far away and when it gets here it stays slow and high pitched compared to the beat plodding along behind it, the vocals enter like the guitar. You can't make out the words because it is just a moaning sort of keening, but that doesn't matter because it is just another instrument. I love this kind of stuff! Some of the tracks are more noisy and rockin' in a good way, but all had that sound-wall type effect.
The Cure used to pull this style off before Robert's vocals (and presumably ego) crowded out the music in the later albums. This is similar but even more dreamy and there is even an occasional old-western-movie type echo guitar part thrown in here and there (a-la-Fields Of The Nephilim). This makes me want to go lay on my bed an look at the glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling. (Oh No! I'm 15 again! Help!) Wonderful music that will make you happy and sad all at once.- JL
"I am not going to like this band," I thought as my friend handed me the Bethany Curve CD to borrow and review. My friend, like many in Santa Cruz, loves the Grateful Dead and Phish. I do not. But if I had written him off as a good-for-nothing dead head when I met him, I would have never gotten to know a really great person. And if I had prejudged Bethany Curve as another one of those bands that fits into this tired hippie genre, I would have been just as wrong.
Bethany Curve is more similar to the Cure. Their first full-length album, Skies A Crossed Sky, is representative of the atmospheric, space-rock sound the group's four musicians create. It would be an appropriate selection for napping, reading, or shroom ing. This is not rock-out-in-the-car music.
Bethany Curve's debut recording was on a compilation called Nocturne Concrète. It came out last spring on Unit Circle Rekkids. Guitarist/vocalist Christopher Preston described it to City on a Hill Press as "ambient, experimental, and Gothic." Ambient i s exactly what Skies A Crossed Sky is.
For most bands, vocals are the most central part of the sound, but Bethany Curve takes an entirely different approach as shown on this album. On the first track, "Vanish," psychedelic sounds emanating from the guitars of Raymond Lake and Richard Millang overlap vocals that are reminiscent of Gregorian chants. Other tracks, like "Spacirelei," have this same sound with the more prominent addition of David Macwha's drums, which race to keep up with the speeding guitar rhythms.
"Rest in Motion" and "Door 2416" have the more poppy Cure sound that Bethany Curve sometimes features on Skies a Crossed Sky. Still however, vocals are not so central that Preston's basslines cannot be easily followed throughout each song. Preston, Lake and Millang all take part in the singing on this album.
Skies A Crossed Sky sounds synthesized, but Bethany Curve has taken a more creative approach. "We use a lot of processors and effects but no keyboards. A lot of wacky shit - TV's, monitors, whatever sounds good on a guitar," Preston said.
There are not many breaks in the sound, not even between the songs. The album is 71 minutes of non-stop weirdness. According to Preston, they are the same way live. They write new interludes for in between songs for each show. This creates a trance-li ke mood. The listener is never shocked back into the awareness that they are part of an audience at a show.
Bethany Curve often plays at parties in Santa Cruz, but would like to do more shows. "We need to have a real place in town to play," says Preston. "Someone needs to open up a real venue."
Overall, Skies A Crossed Sky is exemplary of Bethany Curve's success in this atmospheric genre of music. Unfortunately for them, the audience they would appeal to is not large in Santa Cruz. Maybe they would be more successful in Santa Cruz if they did play hippie music. Personally, I am glad they do not.- Sierra Junemann
Bethany Curve has filled every crack and corner of this album with creeping, seething dark shimmer. Their goal is obviously to overload the listener with gloomy and shivering, yet strangely enlivening noise. The formula calls for lots of spiraling, deepening overtones with an atmospheric buzz that permeates the air beneath as pervasively as their glittering guitars fill the air above. Many of the tracks pick up speed slowly intensely, like a droning locomotive. The music churns in your periphery, never quite gone even between songs. The inertia of Bethany Curve's moody guitars tends to linger long after the silence has come and gone.
And be assured, it goes on and on and on... Half the album is patent dark/synth-ey/metal-tinged drone. Then there are songs like "mot juste" and "troly" that revisit a certain Victorialand blissfulness not often heard these days. Apart from the drums, which (though infrequent) are mechanical at best, this is a great trip. 8-pm, (7-bn)