Rogue Valley – Radiate Dissolve
Radiate Dissolve, the fifth album from Minnesota genre hybrids Rogue Valley, astonishingly represents a scaling back of their initial ambitions. The band’s first four albums, all recorded within the span of four calendar seasons, marked the first conceptual effort in popular music tied around and thematically structured against such a schedule. Their latest album, in comparative modesty, has faint conceptual trappings but focuses much more clearly on being a solidly produced, performed, and written collection of twelve songs. The band has often been singled out for the cinematic aspects of their style and the latest album gives full evidence of that tendency in marvelously engineered surroundings. The two lead singers, guitarist and songwriter Chris Koza along with keyboardist Linnea Mohn, give the band an absolutely unique aftertaste and work quite well together without ever sounding like they are in apparent competition.
Koza helms the first song “The Brightest of Stars” with Mohn only providing scattered and brief harmony support. The song has a strong singer/songwriter vibe and an acoustic core, but Mohn’s keyboard textures irrevocably alter the song with her sheets of discreet color. The rhythm section in Rogue Valley’s music is an unobtrusive spine that you never miss until its gone – and you realize that nothing you’ve just heard is possible without its contribution. “Host” is the album’s first hint of what the band’s dual guitar lineup is capable of, but they never land heavy or flat-footed throughout the song. Their contributions are colorful without seeking to dominate. Rogue Valley takes an unexpected twist in their formula thus far with the cut “Bury Your Heart”. This is much moodier than what the earlier music has thus far prepared you for, but there likewise isn’t a second where Rogue Valley sounds distant or removed from the band authoring those earlier tracks. Koza deserves special mention for his ability to shape his voice towards much different demands without losing any of his impact as a singer.
“Breathe” expands on the potential in “Host” without ever venturing into out and out guitar rock. The twin guitars joust briefly, but concentrate much more on fleshing out their harder textured song. “Transference” is another of the album’s loftier minded numbers, but the band never falls into pretentiousness. Instead, they have an almost architecturally minded view of writing this sort of material that reinforces their perception as cinematic songwriters. These habits are on full display in “Transference” and make for an entertaining listening experience. They pull another card out of their sleeve with the surprising pseudo-psychedelic meanderings of “Planet”, but their performance stays snugly connected to melodic strengths and never gets too unwieldy. “Vainglory” is perhaps the album’s widest screen realization yet of the band’s singer/songwriter proclivities and ranks as one of the greatest moments on radiate dissolve.
There isn’t a weak spot or track on the album really. Rogue Valley are an uniquely talented outfit without any preconceptions about what modern audiences want – just an unerring instinct for knowing it without thinking. Few newer bands working today seem so manifestly capable of great things.
9 out of 10 stars.