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Aloha



Though their name might suggest a more exotic, perhaps tropical hometown, Aloha hails from a small town in northwest Ohio. But their heady, experimental style of indie rock belies their commonplace origins. What's truly remarkable -- and delightful -- about Aloha is their ability to make dazzlingly sophisticated, eclectic music that is also accessible and enjoyable. Their stuff is cerebral, without a doubt, but it's also got a lot of soul. The foundation of their sound lies in an extensive array of percussion instruments, courtesy of drummer Cale Parks, who creates atmospheric, spacey rhythms with a traditional drum kit, and multi-instrumentalist Eric Koltnow, whose vibraphone, conga, cymbals, triangles, and glockenspiel give the music a languid, jazzy feel full of Hawaiian motifs that live up to the band's name. Meanwhile Tony Cavallerio's guitar playing is intricately textured and warm and bassist Matthew Gengler's low-end seems to keep going down forever. But it's not all sunshine and palm trees, as Aloha injects its lazy ethereal jazz with electronic shivers, squiggles, and cold hard beats that hit the songs like icy blasts of deep space. On top of all that, Cavallerio adds lovely, lyrical vocals that are often thin and strained, but somehow very pretty nonetheless.

After forming in late 1997, Aloha issued their self-titled debut, a limited edition three-song seven-inch, in October 1998. A year later, they returned with a five-song, 20-minute EP, the breathtakingly sweeping heavy-percussion The Great Communicators, The Interpreters, The Nonbelievers, which includes "Roanoke Born." In June 2000, the group came back with their first full-length, That's Your Fire: 10 songs and 42 minutes worth of sprawling abstract pop (including "Liberty"), clouded with the hallucinatory fog of the omnipresent vibraphone and the busy rhythms of the snare and cymbals, plus that powerful jazzy/proggy guitar. There's more piano and less electronics here than on their previous releases but the basic structures remain the same. On their second album, 2002's Sugar, they have taken a similar approach to their debut, going for whimsical meandering pop compositions with plenty of vibes, but here you'll find larger, more confident arrangments that blast you with more sheer sound.

Aloha has found quite a nice little space for themselves: jazz but not really, indie rock with a whole lot of non-indie rock instrumentation, pop with thoroughly un-pop sensibilities. You can call it post-rock if you want, but this is music that would seem to transcend such a trite, constricting label. It's strange and elegant, youthful but somehow wise, sad, wistful, playful...music.