A musical venture that uses splashes of Sigur Ros, Radiohead and Elliot Smith while also creating an original sound deserves high marks. The Receiver, comprised of two brothers – Casey and Jesse Cooper – have created a masterful sleeper hit, Length of Arms. Their latest work is one of the most textured, trippy and spacious albums of the year so far, brimming with genius instrumentation and ethereal melodies.
The comparison of The Receiver to Radiohead is a fair one, but the Cooper brothers have created something original, far from familiar musical shores. If anything, the bands latest bears more of a resemblance to the sounds of Mute Math and Blonde Redhead. Their last album, Decades, mirrored more of Elliot Smith and The Beatles, evoking a dreary and tame aura. Length of Arms is more adventurous and experiments with varying textures and more musical elements.
Electric pianos, synthesizers and pads played by an orchestra of aliens cover the album in blankets of hypnotic sound. Casey Cooper, a very talented multi-instrumentalist, plays most of the instruments and handles vocal duties on the disc. Jesse is equally talented, frequently surpassing basic percussion with his intricate beats. Casey keeps the songs melodically intriguing by guiding his voice through a variety of unanticipated pitches that seem to perfectly augment his dark lyrical sentiments. His vocal style is never stagnant, and hits three or four notes strike a single phrase a rock skipping across a lake. Jesse’s percussion and drums are never overbearing and add just the right amount of flair and variation to keep the tempo and add dynamic interest.
“Visitor” is a superb track, maybe one of the year’s best, with wavering keyboard parts intertwined with buzzy tones and delicate vocals. The track plays heavily with a variety of instrumental layers offering many sonic morsels. Marimbas even make an appearance during a break in the driving electronic sounds. The note choices are equally superb and interesting and never rely on a straight key but instead play with dissonant pitches and unusual, but fitting, note choices.
The album is accessible, but also will spark interest with the musically experienced thanks to its beautifully constructed songs that speak volumes about the talent oozing from the brothers Cooper. The album constantly toys with odd time signatures and varying tempos, keeping the compositions elementary enough to understand without a music degree, but variable enough to depart from the expected.
The album as a whole is magnificent, making true the old adage, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Cooper’s certainly have epic moments on the album – “Keep the Desert,” “Visitor,” “Castles in the Air,” “Skin and Bone” and “Amazing Thing” being just a few of the record’s best that fit well in the mix of songs, but those tracks also have enough weight to stand on their own. Even the shorter tunes mesh between the longer songs creating an album that flows effortlessly from start to finish, making a 12 track journey that’s an enjoyable listen from start to finish with no hiccups in between.
The Receiver’s newest release is a record that is the prized pupil in a classroom full of musical clowns. Length of Arms is a superb album from a duo who have meandered into the musical world with their innovative and unique moody style. The absence of guitars on the album is welcoming, allowing for the band to develop a distinctive sound of their own. Their biggest issue may be how their songs will translate live, but there should be little concern for the strength of the record. One listen, and the album should have no problem working its way into the hearts of listeners.