Emerging from the dissolution of a quartet, Jorge Rios and Brennan Roach decided to take on the musical responsibilities of their departed band mates and construct a new sound. The resulting outfit, Time and Energy, prides itself on its mix of live recording and endless loops, merit badges for the Pro-Tools generation. Rios and Roach cut their chops on the West Coast music scene, playing out and bringing their “unique cocktail of experimental rock” to their peers, but on record, the concept mainly falls flat.
Follow-up to 2011’s Entertainica, Time and Energy’s second LP, Strange Kind of Focus, shoots for dangerously experimental and, while it’s possible the duo was striving for some jazz infusion, what’s produced sometimes sounds like a hot dissonant mess. Time and Energy should avoid cramming too much into one track. Case in point: album opener “Hot Air” sounds like an electronic barnyard with canny drums, squeaky sax runs and both Spanish and English lyrics. The woodwind assault continues on “Split Clean” with its overblown clarinet – a cardinal sin for this classically-trained clarintist reviewer. Perhaps I’m biased, but the sound of a clarinet pushed to the point of flatness makes nails on a chalkboard sound like an angel’s harp.
The band is more cohesive when it sticks to simpler arrangements – well, simple in Time and Energy terms. Standout “O’Molly” comes closest to a good ol’ barroom rocker, with a cheerful whistle behind it, while “Tree Salad” is a bit more rudimentary (and by that, I mean a little less worked-over). The song contains the album’s first – fleeting – moments of sonic sublimity. The barebones “Breakdown” and “Think It Through” are welcome respites from the electronic battlefield and prove that Rios and Roach can actually carry a tune. Similarly, “Sitting On A Scale” finds the balance between melodic and experimental in its rich drones and suspended cymbals. (If you’re curious, the experimental includes the ear-splitting scrape of a rusty gate, thrown in, I’m sure, for good measure.)
Whether Time and Energy is attempting to prove that two members are just as good as four, or slice itself a piece of the prog pie, a “less is more” attitude would serve the pair well for its third release . Even in an environment that embraces layers, loops, and a menagerie of sound, Time and Energy can impart an adage impressed upon writers (like this one) from the beginning: Keep it simple, stupid.