Rogue Valley – Radiate Dissolve
Some bands determine, from their first practice on, that they will dare to be different. Fewer actually understand how. Rogue Valley are Minnesota natives who understand that possessing a desire to stand out doesn’t necessarily mean you will. They accomplish the feat by pursuing their own idiosyncratic muse, a vibrant and restless conglomeration of old and new musical approaches all filtered through a completely modern production approach. Traditional virtues abide. This five piece does nothing without some definable melody informing the changes in some way. However, they have an exciting urge to frequently subvert expectations that they frequently indulge without ever losing listeners in the process. The twelve songs on their fifth album take chances and the chances pay off handsomely.
Some songs are subtle about their risk-taking. “The Brightest Stars” opens the album beautifully because it musically embodies its title and lyrics with plain-spoken finesse while bringing together a variety of elements without ever calling attention to the juggling. These aren’t musicians with an ego. Rogue Valley plays as a single unit throughout the album, though they often arrive at their goals with varying means. There are few songs where the last point is more apparent than on the track “Host”. Guitarist Peter Steve and singer/songwriter/second guitarist Chris Koza trade brief flurries and tie their sound into the larger landscape developing behind them. Things take another slightly surprising turn on the sleek and brooding “Bury Your Heart”. This is certainly Rogue Valley’s most outright cynical moment on the album and a despairing lyric. Music and vocals alike are an ideal fit for the subject matter.
“Transference” plays on a much grander scale and the arrangement has an airy lightness lacking in the aforementioned track. Without revealing too much about the content, the band often explores some high-minded lyrical concepts and this is one of those songs. Koza’s writing is never heavy handed or unduly preachy. The improbable lilt and light permeating “Blood Moon” makes it a minor gem thanks to the startling contrast with its lyric and title. The vocals, likewise, betray little hint of it and it gives the song a slightly delirious quality. They take a turn towards the rock spectrum on the song “Cold Windows”, but it remains largely acoustic centered throughout. However, when the electric guitar emerges, it is in a much more forceful way than any earlier example on the album. The uptick in tempo as the song nears it conclusion gives an added jump to things that helps mark this as one of the release’s more memorable later moments.
The final cut and title track personifies the album in a remarkable way and, easily, rates high among its greatest moments. Rogue Valley stretches out here, but they never seem intimidated by the added running time and instead use the blank canvas to reach heights not heard in the earlier songs. You will be hard pressed to hear any other songs like this in 2016 and even harder pressed to find an album of this ilk that surpasses Rogue Valley’s virtues.
9 out of 10 stars.