Time is tricky stuff. To take Pink Floyd’s “Time” as a model, Time can be drawn out to a hugely unspectacular size wherein a subject of Time will do any number of things to relieve the boredom fill in all the many stretched holes between languid and melted seconds like mozzarella cheese; or, Time is solid, compressed, aerodynamic, meant to fly like a bullet. Often, it is languid Time that is the starting point of compressed Time, smelted molecules of minutes cooled and casted into the many forms flying bullets can take. Before the subject can take notice, Time is sent screaming out the barrel of the gun, subject still trying to find a hole to climb through in the fog left from the igniting explosion so he/she can start chasing the bullet that is already halfway around the world. A Band of Bees’ new album, Octopus, allows Time’s oblivious subjects to catch up, maybe even grab firm hold of the bullet before it fires so they can launch with it, subjects moving fast enough for bullet-time.
The Bees’ music on Octopus is characterized by Time that is not stretched with holes boring into its fragile tensile frame, but instead time that is expanded, allowing itself and Time’s other subjects room to breathe. The verses on Octopus feel larger and more expansive in both instrumental and melodic dimensions with windows open to drafts of improvisation to keep some fresh air in each song and never let a song feel stuffy. The relaxed, but never lax, air allows the listener to be alert without hustle and quick without the bustle. The song is not drawn out in its length, holes stretching and tearing in the body of the song, but expands each group of muscles in the body to widen the range of motion for both the musicians and the audience.
The major muscles in this body are the song’s individual verses that are eased into what feels like a considerable length with simple melodic movements: no use for sudden sounds to stretch a verse beyond its level of exertion, leaving a tear that the audience has to rebuild themselves, forgiving that misgiving. The Bees full-bodied music nourishes the listener and lets him/her catch up with time by expanding each measurement of musical time: the verse, like it was making every second longer to give Time’s oblivious subjects room to breathe. Now their able bodies may catch hold of the bullet as it flies by and ride the bullet that is approaching the speed of light, time slowing down, expanding, making every second longer.
As the above three paragraphs exhibit, The Bees’ music allows for not just quick thinking, but swift thinking, perhaps too swift, like simple movements of Bees’ wings. This is just a product of the relativistic Time exhibited in The Bees’ Octopus; Bee-Time, Bullet-Time, where each second is expanded with simple shifts in melody to make the verses feel longer, but without all of the holes that boring music stretches into each four-and-a-half minute song.
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