The Constellation Branch writes music to score the 21st century’s epic stories. Not content to simply make listeners want to dance or remember an old boyfriend (noble endeavors, but done with a “beating dead horses” frequency), they play songs with narrative arc. On Mirage, the band’s new EP, the band takes the time to explore both sides of coins: the joy in sadness, the pain in pleasure.
Mirage is a collection of songs that are nothing if not cinematic in scope. Rooted in rock conventions, these songs push the boundaries of what rock music can be. If a comparison can be made, it would be to Radiohead before they started listening to Aphex Twin. A rock band muscling up its talent to challenge itself even further on subsequent recordings.
“Fata Morgana” opens the EP, its chimes giving way to a spooky guitar/background noise duet. A warm up for listeners that didn’t know they were in for something special. “Hold Your Own” has at its core a guitar lick that would be at home on 90s rock radio, ably kept from sounding silly by passionately searing vocals. The band may be ambitious, but that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten how to kick ass. The slow burn of “Oneironaut” is likely to give listeners chills. Slowly adding strings, vocals, and percussion to an eerily simply piano line, its release is felt in the last of its six minutes, when all the instruments are allowed to interact.
The band gets quiet on “Leaves,” a lilting folk song, and the beginning of the EP’s second half. “The Mirage” continues this laid back feel, while “Mad Hatter,” the most ambitious (and best) song, starts out in “rock this motherfucker” mode, only to bring in a brief interlude of quiet, then rock out for the EP’s last minute.
Taken as a whole, Mirage is a record of life’s peaks and valleys. It won’t get the kids out on the dance floor, but it’s a hell of a statement of ambition from a great band.