Friday, May 31, 2013


Photo by Michells Gustafson
I was slow to climb on the Modality train. It wasn't anything they were or were not doing, it just took me a bit to work my way into it. Live, Modality has always been a pleasure, and as the band has evolved from a sleepy duo into a ensemble of keyboards, guitar, drums, violin and bass, they've blossomed into one of the most unique bands in Missoula. For me, it just didn't translate into their recordings. This happens a lot to bands of any stripe, but it was particularly disheartening for me when it came to Modality.

Live, they weave together improvised and structured sets. Sounds and songs seamlessly meld into each other, washing over you in a steady warmth. It's like a perfectly heated bath. Modality usurps the notion of jam band by accompanying nodes of psychedelia with aggressive guitars and drums. They've coupled the aesthetic of experimentation with a technically sound and complex soothing sense of exploration. Our friends over at WeirdMissoula are prone to saying "the philosophies behind a lot of the musics “hippies” hold dear and a lot of the musics noise-dudes and experimental musicians hold dear, well…they’re really the same," and they're spot on. (You may as well read the entire review -- it's really good and hits all the highlights). 

It's the technical aspect that, at times, hinders translating their live sets to the studio. Don't get me wrong, Particle City retains all the ambient groove of the live sets and highlights how good these dudes are as musicians. To my mind, however, they're limited by the format. I don't know. I'm not trying to be negative here, but I always feel a little more hungry after listening to the record. They've pushed some envelopes in trying to capture their improvisational style by occupying a ballroom in Butte and recently releasing an impressive collection Notes From the SueTerrain.

Serious grooves going on here.

In a festival that's notorious for its hard and heavy line-ups, it's nice to catch a warm ray here and there. Modality provides a series of cleansing moments that massage you in and out of calmness. It's blissful and still edgy enough to keep you on your toes. Something like the end scene of Melancholia or what it feels like to succumb to an avalanche. There's that moment right before you drown that your body forces you to take a breath. You know it's not air coming in, but you're okay with that. Consciousness isn't always a good thing.

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