Balance and Composure – Acoustic 7”
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Record Label: No Sleep Records
The best parts of Balance and Composure songs are the parts where vocalist Jon Simmons seems to completely lose his mind. He’s yelling as loud as his lungs will let him while his band goes apeshit behind him in a setting that’s as beautiful as chaos gets. Fans of the group’s fantastic debut LP, Separation, might recognize what I’m writing about here. On the title track of that album, an ebb and flow occurs between verse and chorus, leading into a cacophony of sound in the last minute. Guitars and drums spill on top of each other and Simmons lets out terrifyingly impassioned groans of: “I can’t erase / My mind and heart work in different ways / Separate.”
That song, and most of Separation as a whole, is executed with a level of shameless passion and fury that it actually physically drains the life out of the listener. Because of these wonderful qualities of Balance and Composure’s music, it’s no understated shock to realize that the band is almost as good when the power goes out. Balance’s acoustic EP, which is made up of three songs from Separation that they re-recorded for an early spring release on No Sleep, opens with a new take on the title track. The normally pounding introduction to the track gets a facelift when Simmons’ vocals aren’t straining in urgency and are instead sprawled out over just an acoustic guitar. We lose thirty seconds off the original run time of the song, but the absence of that brilliant instrumental eruption in the album version doesn’t do much to hurt this version. Considering we’re so used to screaming the lyrics along with Simmons, it’s an instant refresher to hear a slower, calmer take on the song.
The inclusion of “Stonehands” on the acoustic EP seemed like a curious choice to me at first. Already a half-tempo, catch-your-breath moment on Separation, I probably would have preferred to hear an unforgiving song like “I Tore You Apart In My Head” get the acoustic treatment. Nonetheless, “Stonehands” translates quite well to into its less-loud state, with the background vocals stealing the show at moments. This is also just a brilliantly constructed song, and the chord progressions shine here. Closer “More To Me” is a song that I am particularly excited to see on this EP. Not because I like this track most of the bunch – that distinction goes to the title track – but because it draws more attention to one of Separation’s more overlooked songs. “More To Me” is an impeccably arranged song, and while acoustically it loses most of its “oomph,” maybe it’ll just make you appreciate the album version a bit more.
If you ask me whether I want to listen to these songs acoustically or in their full-band nature, I’m going to choose the latter nine times out of 10. Actually, probably like 9.9 times out of 10. But for that one moment that I want to listen to their mellow counterparts, I’m glad that Balance and Composure took the time to write such good alternate versions. It goes unsaid that the unapologetic nature of this band’s loud-quiet-loud-quiet-really really loud songwriting is what makes it stand out most on No Sleep’s roster. It goes unsaid that whatever this band does next will determine whether they become eligible for a rise to an elite level among their peers. So for now, I guess I’ll just say that you should listen to these three songs, go back and revisit Separation with endless vigor because it’s a great listen no matter what time of year it is, and wait patiently for one of the best bands in today’s scene to make its next move.
I know I'm tardy to the party, but for the last two weeks these guys have become my favorite band. Separation is solid. Hope for some new tunes this year and to be able to make it to the show with sainthood reps.