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Serene by Serene (Review)

These guys are obviously talented, too talented to be writing music that is too often bland and un-involving.
Beggars of the Sea - Serene

Consistency is a musical double-edged sword. If you lack it, you run the risk of sounding all scattered and unfocused. The result is music that claims to be adventurous, but just sounds like it has a bad case of ADD. On the other hand, too much consistency is just as bad (if not worse), because it produces music that quickly becomes formulaic and CDs that sounds exactly the same from start to finish. Such is the case with Serene. By no means is it a bad CD, quality or talent-wise. But even talented musicians and skilled songwriters can create music that quickly becomes mired in itself.

Hailing from the same breed of emotional indie-rock — I hesitate to call it “emo” because I still consider Roadside Monument emo, and this is most assuredly not like that — as groups like Appleseed Cast, Serene’s sound is one that conjures perpetual autumn, distant romances, and lovely memories. Or something like that. The sound is generally melancholy, but not overly so. It’s fairly passionate, but not overly so. And it’s pretty enough to occasionally tug at the heartstrings, but again, not overly so.

It all comes back to consistency. This CD sounds the same from start to finish. Listen to any three tracks, picked completely at random, and you’ve basically heard the entire CD. The songs start off with a nice interlude that sure sounds pretty; chiming guitars, shuffling percussion, intertwined melodies… no distortion or angst to be found. Then, as if following a mathematical formula, the intensity revs up. The guitars become a little heavier, the tempo picks up, and the vocals begin. Then back to the nice interlude, but only for a little bit. The song builds again, still sounding really pretty and, you guessed it, serene. Finally it reaches the climax, which you saw coming about a minute into the song, and that’s when the distortion kicks in, supposedly to underscore the wrenching emotions of the song.

That formula is followed, nearly without fail, throughout the entire record. Sure, sometimes the distortion appears a little earlier in the track, or the intro isn’t quite as long, but those are exceptions to the rule. Even though one would never confuse this as ambient music, it might as well be, because it settles quite easily into the background and stays there. Occasionally, something in one of the songs will reach out and grab me. I wasn’t expecting the tortured yelps on “Shot Six,” and I was captivated by the beautifully poetic melody that seems to intertwine itself through both “Myths And Fables” and my mind.

There are some who will find Serene’s music just that, serene. They might find the music perfect for setting a mood, because there are no surprises to disrupt them. But I’m not one of those people. If my words seems overly harsh, it’s simply because these guys are obviously talented, too talented to be writing music that is too often bland and un-involving. Taken in small doses, it’s quality stuff. The problem is the quantity; there’s just too much of it that sounds identical.

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