The best music makes you levitate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the soul crooner lifting you above your sorrow with his own, or the punk rocker screaming out a juvenile hope that your cynical experience can’t quite deny; if it doesn’t get your feet at least a couple of inches off the floor, it’s probably second rate. Instrumentally, the simplest formula for attaining lift-off involves repeating soft, narcotic tones, getting gradually louder, faster, or more distorted until a cathartic crescendo is achieved. A classic example would be “Adagio For Strings.” Recently, rock groups like Mogwai, God Speed You Black Emperor and Red Stars Theory have co-opted this framework and expanded upon it. Now, a local band is taking its own shot.
CYOA works simply, and starts things off by letting you know they’re going to rock; the opening track rapidly descends into a scrub-fest worthy of Fugazi or Sonic Youth. That out of the way, they seem to feel less pressured, and the next few tracks clock in at over 10 minutes each. The formula is in full effect here, but CYOA skillfully manipulates predictability into anticipation. The hypnotic phrases that open the songs are good enough that the listener won’t get bored, and when they start into the cacophonies, it’s like firework detonations in slow motion, loud and beautiful.
“Exercises in Repetition” exhibits some of the digital tweaking that’s defined Mogwai lately, and it’s a hopeful glimpse of CYOA’s maturity. A relatively short, static-y piano piece serves as a palate-cleanser before the last two tracks close out in familiar territory. The last song, “Stonerism,” features the only vocals, some metaphysical mumbling that doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the music, but reminds us that La Mancha is a first effort. Stoned or not, CYOA will leave you happily hovering.