February 24th, 2009 7:00am

Just Slightly Higher

Cymbals Eat Guitars “And The Hazy Sea”

The most obvious thing about Cymbals Eat Guitars is that their epic, widescreen indie rock bears a striking resemblance to that of Built To Spill and early Modest Mouse. The most impressive thing about them, however, is just how comfortable they sound playing around with a sound those bands defined on albums like The Lonesome Crowded West and Keep It Like A Secret. This isn’t just a case of some young band wearing their influences on their sleeves, and offering up a lesser version of their favorite records — these are strong, creative players stretching out and finding their own niche within a rich yet largely unmined aesthetic territory. The band use more or less the same musical palette and techniques to convey scope and sprawl, but they navigate the suggested space differently. Whereas Modest Mouse simulated the feeling of driving down endless interstates and Built To Spill express the inner life of an introvert on a monumental scale, Cymbals Eat Guitars’ songs tend to be more dramatically volatile, and move like the tides of a vast ocean of emotion.

“And The Hazy Sea,” the opening track on their debut album Why There Are Mountains, elegantly transitions from moments of screaming intensity and gentle, placid movements marked by shimmering guitar leads, fluid bass grooves, and tinkling keyboards. The composition is all drift and sudden catharsis, but despite its odd shape, the piece overflows with melodic flourish. The keyboard parts are particularly lovely in the way they seem to sparkle like sunshine on the ocean, and clever in that they offer melodic counterpoint without cluttering the song with redundant timbre and texture a la the guitar overdub overkill of Built To Spill.

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