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Cetacean Solve Their “Dichotomy”

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In my experience as a music fan, I’ve found it nearly impossible to divorce an album from its accompanying artwork. When Cetacean released their debut Breach | Submerge nearly two years ago, their triple-guitar gorilla swings, saxophone flexes and progressive arrangements made for songs that boasted depth, weight and force. The violent cosmic vortex emblazoned on the CD case made plenty of sense: bursts of light in a sea of darkness being drawn towards an empty pit was an all-too-accurate image befitting Cetacean’s muscular color palette.

Cetacean’s newest release Dichotomy strides down a different path than their debut, both aesthetically and aurally. While the vortex remains, the stark colors and swirling overcast of Breach | Submerge are gone. Islands and oceans erode and fall apart, trapped in the naked detail afforded by the sharp shading and a grayscale eye. Where guitars came to the forefront on Breach | Submerge with burly chords and saccharine harmonies, Cetacean have taken a more expansive route on Dichotomy. The axes spend less time riffing on “Zephyrvs,” letting Daniel Pouliot’s tambourine and Stephen Carouhas’s overdriven bass charge that track to its end.

The layers are less obvious on Dichotomy; there are fewer colors to highlight and differentiate the details, and the listener has to spend a bit more effort unpacking what’s there. The vortex finishes its meal on the title track, where Cetacean arrogantly ebb and sway toward the chaos. Swansong’s saxophone makes a somnambulistic return before waking up red-eyed, flying about the stereo field just as Trae Malone’s screeches, Pouliot’s blasts and the ever-apocalyptic organ signal the end. Though it’s a shorter listen than their debut, Cetacean have entrusted us with more work on Dichotomy. The spotlights are gone and so are the endearing surprises. What’s left is a more cohesive piece, where the accents and garnishes aren’t painted neon pink for us to spot. The vortex has flipped from black to white, but the grip and pull remain.

Cetacean’s Dichotomy EP will be available on November 17th via Apes Who Looked Up. Follow them on Facebook and Bandcamp.

—Avinash Mittur

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