The Austin Chronicle

Texas Platters

Reviewed by Doug Freeman, April 5, 2013, Music


Leveler (The Elusive Goldmine)

Monahans master the art of hushed intensity, crafting tunes of dramatic proportion that nonetheless feel restrained amid their bluster. The local quartet's fourth release, which includes the digital-only Roam an Empty Space as an additional download with Leveler vinyl, begins in the Secret Machines-like percussion of "Silent Sunsets," a storm threatening on the dark horizon as becalmed by frontman Greg Vanderpool's meditative vocals that finally burst into the racing "Forward/Reverse" next. Early U2 still serves as the touchstone to the former Milton Mapes' sound, but the tension lies in their broil, the forward-mixed drums tempered by moderate melodies. "The Loss of Feeling" quietly grounds the A-side, while "Diamonds" unloads perfectly arranged swells, and "Signs of Life" lingers like Springsteen losing a struggle for faith – slowly building into a desperate plea. The back side paces awkwardly with "The Meadow" ceding to the haunting six-minute soundscape of "Prologue (Instrumental)" and the jagged guitar slashes and swooning strings of "Awakened." Likewise, "Leading Lines (A Modern Lesson)" darkens with an industrial grit that settles uneasily against the stripped-down "Echoes." More experimental and reaching, Leveler explores new terrain that still feels freshly mapped.


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