Slow and low, that is the tempo, but San Francisco's Timonium doesn't exactly fit the soft-core parameters established by sleepytimers Idaho, Low, or Codeine. Instead of remaining pretty and complacent, Timonium isn't afraid to pump up the volume. On Suspende Animation, the band takes four long songs and spins them aloft with soft cascades of chords, weaving plangent guitars, loopy bass lines, and shapeless vocals into spacious mood tapestries. But on each one, momentum takes over, with layers added, volume raised, and tension released.
Many young bands (Timonium's members all hover around the 20-year-old mark) aren't interested in taking the time to grasp emptiness, using it as another instrument in the same way eye-pleasing blank space on a page lends strength to an advertisement. But on Suspende Animation, silences stretch out and fold back on themselves like Möbius strips, echoes remain (nearly) forever, and wandering notes take languid long-cuts to faraway locales. All this attention to atmosphere and mood doesn't mean the group gives short shrift to its songs. Timonium's carefully modulated power is underscored by dueling male/female voices offering occasional peeks into the narrative at the center of this calm chaos. "If I am you, and you are me, then why is it that I am still the same person?" asks "Self Evidence," while "Don't remind me, where I am. Don't remind me, why I'm here. Knee deep in stone, cement" (sung in a wire-rimmed whisper) adds a calculated air of dread. "Neu Hampshire" abandons everything to melody, with sighing cross-harmonies trading phrases back and forth, building and building until a furious wave of feedback sweeps back and attacks.
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Each track requires eight or nine minutes to fully unwind, unwrap, and unfurl its valley-to-peak dynamics. The songs begin tentatively, gradually growing to a bright nova studded with cymbal crashes and six-string crescendos, then stripping back the layers and revealing the simple, pure essence once again. Still, Timonium's glacial pace doesn't make for a musical elephant tranquilizer -- passages that lull and soothe can be bookended by surprisingly sharp shards of noise. The effect is hair-raising: Someone should tell the other slow-and-soft bands that turning the knobs up every once in a while doesn't hurt a thing. (Pehr, P.O. Box 750996, Petaluma, CA 949750996; email@example.com)