Reviews:: Mars Hill - Fate, Chance, Luck, Dance

Assuming you checked out my ECMA Alternative Recording of the year preview post, and why wouldn't you, then you've got the primer on Mars Hill. Well the good folks at Sandbar Music sent over a copy of Fate, Chance, Luck, Dance, so I thought I'd give it the full-length review treatment. In the preview post, I mentioned that Mars Hill had an ecclectic sound, well after a full-length listen, I can say that assessment was spot on.

The main negative I can see with such an ecclectic sound is finding an audience. Fate, Chance, Luck, Dance is sort of in the middle of a couple genres, a crazy melange of indie pop and hip hop that might be a bit much for the average listener. But what do I know, average listerners are overrated anyway,and there are some very cool songs on the album. The World Is A Cult has some jazzy drumming to go along with some nice horns to produce a cool backdrop for some Beck-ish half sung vocals. It also has a crazy minute-long scratching outro that somehow manages to fit the song and be kind of jarring at the same time. I Don't Know, You Don't Know is a study in contrast with it's Paris-cafe sounding piano & accordian sounds joined partway through by some Mexican horns. Horns are always good, I've said this before, but hip hop, and music in general, needs more horns.

The live drum-break on Singer Wanted, This Music's Haunted reminds me of The Breakestra while the Fun Lovin' Criminal-esque vocals are almost straight ahead rappin'. Where Did The Money Go changes things up with it's reggae style, whereas the latter part of the album has a downtempo feel, kind of a live-played trip hop sound, with songs like Going Home and Empire. I love the vibe of this album, the songs create a mellow, almost atmospheric vibe that is hard to create with live instruments.

If I had to take issue with any aspect of this album, it would be the vocals. Devin Casario utilizes a wide range of vocal styles, from a whispered, spoken-word steez on the opener, to some fairly straightforward rappin' on a couple tracks, and a lot of monotone singing, that reminds me of Buck 65's singing on Secret House Against The World, on the rest of the album. Not that any of it is bad per se, it just comes off a little strange the first time through the album; I did get used to it after a couple listens. Keyboard and trumpetist Chloe Cork did a nice job on background vocals in a couple songs, it might be an idea to try her on lead vocals for a couple tracks to break things up. Just a thought though, I realize the band is attempting to do something different, so the vocals are part and parcel of that.

Mars Hill stood out from the other ECMA alternative nominees because their sound was so different from the indie or pop rock styles offered by the other nominees. Fate, Chance, Luck, Dance is a interesting album because of all the different sounds the band fuses together, but technically it's very solid. There's no sloppiness that you might see if a band was just experimenting with these sounds; Mars Hill knows what they're doing. It'll be interesting to see how the band progresses now that they're in the musical mecca of Montreal, I'll be checking for their next release.

myspace>> Mars Hill

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