Charles the Osprey – Consider

Charles the Osprey - ConsiderThere’s an amusing anecdote in the press release I was sent for Charles the Osprey’s Consider, and although normally quoting directly from a press release would be complete anathema to me, I’m going to share this:

Charles the Osprey’s moment of infamy was brief and bittersweet. After a show early into the band’s tenure as kings of instrumental math-rock in their hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, they found a note on a bar table written by a woman who “really enjoyed your obvious LACK of musical talent” (her emphasis). “It also really helps to play your bad music really, really loud. Give me a call sometime.”

Not for everyone, I guess.

Charles the Osprey are a drums-and-guitar duo, and wait, before you click away, they aren’t a lo-fi or indie-rock duo. No, while that vein has been thoroughly mined over the past five years, Charles the Osprey play cool noodly instrumental tech-punk (“tech-punk” is me trying to avoid quoting the press release against, since “math-rock” is a perfectly apposite phrase to use here) that’s not quite like any other band I can think of. In fact, if I were determined to draw a comparison, the only one I could make would be to a band from half the world away – Leeds’ That Fucking Tank (reviewed here). However, TFT are all about looping riffs and rocking rhythms laden with fuzz and distortion, and their best songs are essentially seven minutes of minor variance building to crescendo, whereas Charles the Osprey adopt a more playful approach, with lots of clean lead guitar work and noodling that pushes songs in unexpected directions. I suppose the missing link between the two would be Battles, whose sound is closer to Charles the Osprey but whose songwriting approach is more akin to That Fucking Tank.

There are exceptions, of course, such as ‘Lipstick with Bull Tendencies’, which is a little more loose and aggressive than some other tunes on Consider, although it too becomes very soft and gentle in places. But variety is a major strength here on Consider with no two songs being quite alike. Take, for example, ‘Alia Pompeii; The Temptress’, a highly atmospheric tune which starts out slow and steadily accelerates to a breakneck pace. Or ‘Lovecraft! Smile!’ with its sinister and jarring guitar (perfectly suited to the author namechecked in its title), or the beautiful extended intro and verse of ‘Eucharist Prototype’.

For my money the top song present is ‘The Idiran/Culture War’ – yes, a reference to an early Iain M. Banks SF novel – which features some superb riffs and rapid lead guitar work.

In a way it’s a shame the band are instrumental because their songtitles hint at both a sense of humour and extensive reading, and I’m curious to know the stories behind some of these songs, but of course the instrumental purity of these songs wouldn’t fit with most vocal styles, and it’s better that the band are what they are. It helps that what they are is very cool indeed. I suspect that Consider will become the sort of record that I put on at parties to shake things up a bit, and I further suspect that more than a few revellers will want to know who Charles the Osprey are.

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  1. […] in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a town which also plays host to instrumental duo Charles the Osprey (reviewed last year) and Ghost Heart (reviewed a few weeks ago). I guess they dig their post-rock and ambient music […]