KNOXVILLE — "Inkling," Senryu (Cargo Cult/El Deth)
Isn't it about time the world at large caught on to Senryu? For the past decade, the group has been spreading roots in the underground music scene from Knoxville to tiny points around the United States and Europe. With most of the band's CDs only available at concerts (and sometimes only for one night!), the band wore its exclusivity to its devoted fan base like a badge of honor.
While the band built a family-like following with this tactic, it was a shame that a wider audience couldn't experience the group's wry blend of pop melodicism and musical adventurousness.
Thankfully, in 2009, the group decided to make its music available to everyone. Senryu's extensive back catalog was put up for free download at www.senryu.bandcamp.com. And now the band has released "Inkling," the first full-length disc made available widely since 2005's "Pssst."
"Inkling" is a fine place to dive into the group's strange and alluring world. It's beautiful. It's peculiar. It's emotional and (as always) ambitious.
On one level (and according to Senryu singer-songwriter Wil Wright), "Inkling" is about following clues and superstitions and the importance of having faith in the supernatural. On another, though, it seems to be about the more down-to-earth topic of obsessions and disintegrating relationships.
In the song "Inklings," Wright sings:
"Two missing B's on a giant marquee told me that you would be back for me, so I stood under it all day/so I could read it over and over and over again.
"One car collision right in front of my face/I nearly screamed when I saw the license plate/Your initials and 5-4-3/The waiting is almost over ..."
Maybe those signs don't mean anything, but the singer is convinced they do.
A few songs, including "Inklings," are almost suites with changing melodies and emotions.
When the angry and insistent "A Trail of Asterisks" reaches a climax, it suddenly turns into an achingly beautiful bid for reconciliation, complete with swirling strings and a sweet vocal pairing by Wright and Zoe-Ruth Erwin.
That song follows with "Up We Go" - a sound collage that starts with a young girl's voice and ends with the voice of an older woman, presumably the same person changed by the rapture depicted in the piece.
And that leads into the mysterious and percussive "Obsess Much" - a number that builds to an ominous climax.
Despite solid melodies and hooks that attach to your psyche like flypaper, "Inkling" is not a typical rock release. The band is after something deeper, and if it takes violins, cellos and glockenspiels (mixed with the standard electric guitars, bass and drums) to get there, all the better. Senryu sounds untethered by any rules aside from making compelling music.
And, it's the smart work by drummer-percussionist Steven Rodgers, bassist Andres McCormack and guitarist Dan McCormack (along with guests Daniel Hart of the Physics of Meaning and Ariel Saldivar of Polyphonic Spree) that really makes "Inkling" sparkle.
Senryu has been an insider's band for far too long. "Inkling" should be a great coming-out party.
Wayne Bledsoe may be reached at 865-342-6444 or email@example.com. He is also the host of "All Over the Road" midnight Saturdays to 4 a.m. Sundays on WDVX-FM.
© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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