The Cheesecake carolers of Colorado
Poet Robert Browning’s creation of the “Pied Piper of Hamelin” provided an indelible descriptor to the global vocabulary, which has defined countless national leaders, religious figures and musicians as intriguing, but irresponsible.
Like general techno music, The String Cheese Incident has been associated with such delusory forces because of the size of its following, the captivating skill of each band member and the fact that the band had not shown the capability of maturing into anything more than an a highly-talented jamgrass outfit.
String Cheese was nervous about Tuesday’s release of its new, studio album, “Untying the Not,” with good reasons.
“Untying the Not” is the result of a period, for the band, fraught with global and personal turmoil, lost loved ones – through separation and death – and marriages.
Inspired by the fickle nature of mortality, Cheese has created its finest album to date, with the help of British producer Youth.
“Untying the Not” glides through a vast spectrum of musical genres, which are connected by themes of loss and love, oppression and bliss and dream and despair.
All of the themes are professed through a set of metaphorically-strengthened lyrics, revealing an honesty and willingness to address some of life’s more difficult situations and questions, which wasn’t as apparent in previous albums.
And, each theme seems to oppose another, and the contrasts create a platform for Cheese to make a profound protest against pessimistic perspectives.
Perhaps the biggest difference between “Untying the Not” and Cheese’s previous albums, is evident in the total sound.
Cheese’s previous album, “Outside Inside,” marked the band’s first attempt at a well-produced, studio album, and resulted in a polished album, lacking vitality.
Youth, a former member of Killing Joke, and a producer for the Orb, the Verve and Crowded House, had never worked with band like Cheese, and provided the band with the sonic vibrance they’d been missing.
What Cheese loses in the studio is the intensity of their live dynamics, which have the power to dictate a crowd’s exuberance.
However, this album is filled with so many different risks and forms of musical expression, that it’s safe to say the band has finally turned the studio into an instrument.
The album begins with guitarist Billy Nershi’s “Wake Up,” which starts with a shimmering, Floydian intro before breaking into the lyrics.
Bassist Keith Moseley wrote the second track, “Sirens,” which carries a dark, forboding sound through the verses and breaks into a bright chorus in major keys with a reggae backbeat.
The third track is Nershi’s “Looking Glass,” which is destined to become an instant favorite at concerts because of its feel-good chorus and allusion to “Alice in Wonderland.”
The next five tracks work together as powerful medley, and, together, are the most powerful pieces on the album.
The medley begins with Nershi’s ethereal “Orion’s Belt,” travels through a spoken-word trip with Carolyn “Mountain Girl” Garcia, then a dissonant cloud of sounds and voices until the band’s voices prevail in a harmonized “Lonesome Road Blues.”
Keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth’s “Elijah” is a tragic instrumental, written about the death of Nershi’s nephew.
And, the final piece in the medley begins with the statement, “That’s a good way to look at it,” and breaks into a joyful bluegrass jam.
Michael Kang’s “Tinder Box,” Hollingsworth’s “Who am I?,” percussionist Michael Travis’s “Time Alive” and Hollingsworth’s “On My Way” guide the album toward some of the final lyrics:
All the pain and all the glory
Fade into a brighter story
Golden angels born of starlight
Through the maze of hearts divided
Just to be here now.
The String Cheese Incident’s “Untying the Not” is available at your local record store. The String Cheese Incident’s next stop in Colorado is Colorado Springs on Sunday, Nov. 9th.
Andrew Harley can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 608.