Exquisite Corps

“Light as a Feather” – Exquisite Corps

Rock’n’roll in the internet age chews up and spits out trends and genres as fast as bloggers can make them up. If you haven’t realized it by now, our task here, together, is to ignore the churn and hype and just listen in peace, find the good stuff, and let it lift our spirits. Easy, right?

So, okay, chamber pop. Is it a good thing? A bad thing? A “that’s so 2006” thing? We don’t care, you and I. We listen to “Light as a Feather” and say, wow. This is one elegant and dynamic piece of music. Bass, drum, acoustic guitar, cello, two violins, so artfully put together that you would not suspect how otherwise difficult it is to merge these instruments into a cohesive presentation. The sticking point is usually figuring out how to blend the strings with the drums, as violins and cellos and such did not grow up around drum kits. Exquisite Corps does it so well they flaunt it: the strings are introduced with a bash of the drums at 1:09, and their first job is not to be sweeping or yearning but to be percussive; they join in here (and it may be the most ear-catching part of the song) as part of the rhythm section, and when first released on their own (1:30), stay in their lower registers and remain submerged to the drumbeat. Meanwhile, singer Bryan Valenzuela impresses at both ends of his dynamic range, his edgy, Lennon-meets-Corgan voice providing the glue that links the quieter and more intense sections of this song. By the time we hear the strings in all out string-section mode (2:45), they have been fully incorporated into this distinctive rock’n’roll song, chamber pop edition.

Exquisite Corps (get it? no “e”) began life in Sacramento in early ’09 as a cello/acoustic guitar duo with Valenzuela and cellist Krystyna Taylor. Two violinists were brought in for a special performance the band was doing with a local ballet company, and stuck; before long, the bass player and drummer from Valenzuela’s old band Call Me Ishmael came on board. “Light as a Feather” is a song from the quintet’s self-titled seven-track debut album, released last month. You can listen, and buy it, on the band’s Bandcamp page.