Instrumental music always puts the reviewer in a pickle. Reviewers are humans with unique experiences, just like everyone else, and as such they have their own way of filtering art through their own worldview. Therefore, as a reviewer tries to explain the meaning that they derive from an instrumental recording, all they can truly comment on with authority is their own personal reaction to the music. There are no lyrics to draw meaning from; all that the reviewer has to rely on in forming their opinions of instrumental music are song titles, artwork, and the music. But, in the end, perhaps the reviews where the reviewer writes about how the music touched them personally and aesthetically are the ones that convey best the actual quality of the music.
Well, enough with the philosophizing. I write this preamble to the review of Questions in Dialect‘s full-length, mostly instrumental CD As You May Know to prepare the reader for what may be quite a subjective review. To be true, As You May Know can be judged on its musicality and technicality, and there is plenty of both, but ultimately, this CD hits me in a different way. Through the brief but descriptive titles of songs that convey a smidgen of what the band is trying to communicate (titles like “Walking on Water” and “Resurrection of the Dead” are chuck-full of mental imagery), and through the music itself, I am rather left with an experience that is in a realm beyond simple music listening. Ulitmately, that’s where Questions in Dialect succeeds: in creating a mood, a sound picture, if you will, that the listener can process in their mind
Nevertheless, As You May Know IS a CD, and it’s my duty to give you some idea of the sound of the music that this Southern band plays. My first impression, upon playing “God of Green Hope”, the first track, is that Questions in Dialect sounds a tad like a more mathy Early Day Miners. And, for the most part, this comparison holds relatively well throughout the whole of As You May Know, with its intricate guitar melodies, mood-setting atmospheric light drones, and often earthy, pastoral feel. Anyone who knows my appreciation for Early Day Miners will recognize the significance of this comparison! Other comparisons that As You May Know draw on are a less spacey Ester Drang, a darker, more aggressive and dynamic Unwed Sailor, or a less dramatic Sigur Ros. All in all, the sound is both expansive, calling to mind landscapes and the sky, and yet intimate, reaching to the depths of the soul. The band uses lead guitars, excellent (and at times quite climactic) drumming, keys, and other various instruments. Using a math-rock approach that isn’t afraid to incorporate more droney or dreamy elements at times, Questions in Dialect is by no means a soft band. In songs like “Supplemental/Inflatable/Restraint”, the band builds in volume and tension towards a powerful conclusion. Questions in Dialect plays patiently, though, preferring to let their songs extend well past the 5 minute mark, yet they never lose the attention of their listener as the songs naturally and logically progress and build. Such patience is refreshing to hear, especially since Questions in Dialect grab the listener’s attention early in the songs (such as “Walking on Water”, with its fluid-sounding guitar and bass lines ushering the listener into the scene the band paints with their music.
Ultimately, as I alluded to earlier, the music all blends together (in a good way) to create a stimulating experience for me. As I listen to As You May Know, I can readily imagine Biblical scenes, landscapes, and feel a sense of hope and encouragement. Even in the one song with vocals, “The Possibilities of Right Now” the singer emotionally expresses “Just let it go; that’s all I can say. It’s not your fault it happened this way. Don’t be so rash or it’ll never be right.”…words that can have a profound meaning for me in my life even now. My basic assessment of As You May Know is that it’s a finely produced and executed CD that somehow transcends the mere notes that come out of the speakers. I somehow think that the enigmatic artists in Questions in Dialect would want to be evaluated in no other way.