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Knife the Symphony/Smoke Signals... Split 12"

Cincinnati’s Phratry Records has just completed work on a split 12” from local bands Knife the Symphony and Smoke Signals… and everything about this package deserves attention.

For one, the 12” vinyl comes packaged in a 2-color, screen-printed sleeve with a poster-sized insert and includes a code for a free MP3 download. The cover design of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, done by Sugar Screens in Newport, appropriately connotes the semi-friendly rivalry between Cincinnati (represented by KtS) and Northern Kentucky (represented by Smoke Signals...) and pays homage to the river that divides us.

Sonically, I am going against my m.o. to say that -- regarding Knife the Symphony’s side of the album – I actually prefer this recording in some respects to the times I have seen them live.

With the ability to better hear the assaulting loudness of Jerry Dirr’s drums and Jeff Albers’ vocals, what you are given is an opportunity to explore and enjoy the musical and rhythmic interplay – as well as the rather profound and well-crafted artistry of Alber’s lyrics.

The side opens with “Causation,” which has always been one of my favorite KtS songs. Both this and the track “Last Dance” exhibit a super-charged skater-punk throwback energy that is electrifying. If it’s possible for something to be both retro and neo post-punk at the same time, then Knife the Symphony has achieved it. Acting as a buffer between these two songs is track “Fade Away,” a piece that artfully showcases the band’s punchy rhythmic and dynamic abilities.

Much of this prowess is due to the inclusion of Seth Longland on bass. Apart from being a super-nice guy, Seth is an absolute monster of the bottom-end and he makes his presence felt on both side of this album. Whether he is brandishing his Jazz Bass with KtS or wielding his Rickenbacker with Smoke Signals…, Longland is truly one of the finest bass players actively working in the scene today.

Speaking of Smoke Signals…, I am so very happy to hear some new music from them again. Since the release of their album The Collapse in 2013, I have become a huge fan. It is just about as close to a perfect band as you can get. Longland’s proficiency is equally-matched and enhanced by Jims Snowden on drums. Add to that the controlled demolition of Jims’ brother Chad on guitar and vocals and the result is heady, dark and sweetly complex.

The soulful nihilism that I enjoyed so much with The Collapse is present in the blistering and jaw-dropping instrumental “Silent War.” This is contrasted beautifully by the first track, “Page:Verse,” with its punk-metal leanings that remind me a bit of Soul Asylum (pre-“Runaway Train”).

“Release” brings the split 12” to a close in a proto-prog-rock five-minute relative epic for Smoke Signals… that provides a venue for all three musicians to shine both individually and collectively.

Shane Chaney [Swear Jar] was responsible for a large part of the recording and mastering of this record and worked side-by-side with both bands to produce an artifact that expertly captures both groups’ similar energies and unique variances.

The Knife the Symphony/Smoke Signals… 12” spilt is available for pre-order and will be shipping in late September.