The departing sentiment on Minotaurs’ first album, The Thing, is that “There is nothing new… out here… anymore;” a melancholy feeling that seems to echo through the production, not just in Nathan Lawr’s lyrics, but the tone of his vocals as well. It’s done in such a way that the smooth jazz-rock n’ roll of the 12-piece instrumental accompaniment manages to meld perfectly with his message and yet remain funky. Whether the fit was completely intentional, or just the haphazard result of having an exceptionally talented group of musicians in the same place at the same time, the album is truly wonderful.
Despite the end note of The Thing, if there’s anything you can say about Minotaur’s latest release, New Believers, it’s that they’ve found a new sound. The splendorous horn ensemble mixed with lively percussion is still there, but it’s different. Their music is tighter, faster, more harmonious and accented with profound blues guitar.
Nathan Lawr’s vocals come across with a much more intentional feeling. Adding some background assistance from Sarah Harmer and Ohbijou’s Casey Mecija, it becomes apparent that Lawr has been fine-tuning his musical intonation since The Thing’s 2010 release.
As with most music, horns make it sexier. This time around, however, the jazzy element of Minotaurs sound is being partially overshadowed by afrobeat. Make Some Noise, for example, is a direct descendant of Fela Kuti’s notorious anthem, Zombie.
Although there is something to say about every song off New Believers, Windchimes in the Evening is the brightest star on this production by far. It brings about the exact feel of Minotaurs’ live shows, which are an experiment in pleasant sensory overload.
If you’re already a Minotaurs’ fan, it’s easy to see how the same things that make New Believers a change in direction for the band are in some ways it’s downfall. The high energy of every track leave little time to contemplate what’s just blown by your ears. They still often get lost in a whirly dream of horns, keys, and guitar, but half of the songs feel like they’re cut off too soon. The pace reminds me of being an anxious teenager, skipping to the “hard stuff” on my Moist CDs.
The Thing may still stand out as the act’s best album so far, but New Believers is nothing to scoff at. Their newfound vivacious energy is bound to create a much dancier vibe at the notoriously epic live shows Minotaurs love to put on; replete with extended instrumentals and a buzzing, sweating crowd at the end of every set cheering for more.
You can see Minotaur’s live on January 26th, 2013 at the Transac.