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Panoply Academy Legionnaires

"No Dead Time" (Secretly Canadian)

If you're looking for indie rock that is challenging and innovative, please look no further than the new cd by the Panoply Academy. Easily one of the most engaging live acts of the moment, Bloomington, Indiana's finest is also equally as engaging on vinyl and cd. For those unfamiliar, the Panoply Academy sound is one of constant change. Their songwriting style is quite complex, as each member of the band works overtime jumping from one mood to the next. Their sonic guitar sound and acrobatic rhythm section compliment each other well compositionally, however, their penchant for shifting gears around oddball sound sources (hand claps, sleigh bells, horn blasts, synth, kazoos, etc) always keeps things interesting. On their 4th cd for the Secretly Canadian label, "No Dead Time" finds the Academy in perhaps their finest form, appropriately complimented by overall, excellent production.

Comparatively, Panoply is not akin to the jangly, singer-songwriter style of pop music. Indeed, they are a songwriting unit that fuses emo-laden expression with progressive musical composition, requiring unique input from each Academy member. Accordingly, each instrument is as individually interesting to listen to as the other. Perhaps their vocalist is the least intersting aspect of their sound. Unless you are a major fan of the old DC band The Cranium, the falsetto vocalizing might take a bit of getting used to. On "Hushlife", their Chicago leanings shine through magnificently, merging plucked strings, echoing vibes and a jazzy horn section that, in typical Panoply style, jump from slow jam to angular out-rock and back again. However, the vocals hover above the lovliness like a theramin, adding tension where it doesn't always seem to belong.

"Abattoir" is a delightful number where dual vocals work really well together. High and low vocal harmonizing dance in time to the music, swelling up from the breakdown into a rhythmically-frantic finish. Dynamics, time-changes, and genuine skill are Panoply's greatest assets, and they use them to great effect. The dramatic "Thermonitor" finds the Academy in a rare, introspective mood at the beginning of the track, creating a dream sequence of tick-tocking guitars and echoing piano that segues into a self-concious Panoply decree. Proclaiming, "We cozy up to you, and we know what to do," the Legionnaires seem to take pride in their skillful craft, and by the time you reach this eighth track on "No Dead Time", there's no disagreeing with them if you've made it this far. After five or six years of persistant touring, line-up and name switcheroos, The Panoply Academy has fine-tuned their sound to perfection. "No Dead Time" is damn near perfect.

- SK

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[email protected] | June 2001 | Issue 15