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Regain Your Balance and Composure with a Little Separation

Exquisite but quite possibly a little too weird.

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Doylestown, Penn., natives Balance and Composure released Separation (No Sleep Records), their debut full-length this spring. Separation is a departure from B&C's handful of EPs and demonstrates that the band is continuing to build on their ambient, grungy sound.

The problem is that this album has trouble building up to anything else. Weighing in at 12 tracks, this body of work is well put together but lacks the appeal of B&C's early work. Albeit passionate and lyrically revealing, the songs seem to be missing something. Jonathan Simmons' vocals remain raspy and unpredictable throughout the record, but now there is a different side to the man behind the microphone. His note choices and inflection match well with the ample guitar noise and direction of the record but convey a sense of torment and sadness. Songs such as "I Tore You Apart in My Head" paint a violent and lonely picture of Simmons locked away in his own frustration.

Along with the intensity and sincerity of Simmons' vocals, the musicianship is outstanding. The group makes amazing use of the three guitars, drums and bass, and they wield each incredibly well. By combining pretty-sounding guitar riffs with big, heavy distortion, the band crafts a sound that is sonically pleasing and intricate.

Although powerful, songs like "Echo" tend to swing and sway rather than demolish. Being one of the most tender songs on the record, "Echo" proves that B&C wanted to venture into dark places with this release and explore their sound in a more mature and developed way. Drummer Bailey Van Ellis plays sparingly throughout this 4-minute stroll through apathy but drives the mood of the song with his massive-sounding snare and bass drum.

As a whole, the album is exquisite but quite possibly a little too weird for its own good. The songs are all excellently written but fail to rouse quite the same reaction incited by B&C's earlier releases. Perhaps some familiarity is necessary to appreciate Separation, or maybe even some heartache, but the first time through, it seems like the potential for greatness is there but, unfortunately, just slightly out of reach.

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