Gold Standard is “Instrumental Rock” in the Truest Sense (Review)

The trio perform “instrumental rock” in the truest sense of the word: without vocals and fully intent on melting your face.
Gold Standard

I have a hunch that when most people hear the term “instrumental rock,” they think of that particular strand of post-rock that’s given to sweeping orchestral arrangements and long, expansive compositions. Even bands like Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai, which certainly plant their flag in the louder end of the spectrum, are difficult to think of as actual rock bands, due to their experimental tendencies.

Atlanta’s Gold Standard, on the other hand, is “instrumental rock” in the most literal sense of the term: their songs are all sans vocals and they’re not concerned so much with experimentation and intricate arrangements as they are with melting your face. That’s not say that their music is simple, though. There may not be any elaborate string arrangements embellishing their songs, but the band will still knock you over with a flurry of blows from their power trio set-up.

The late, great Roadside Monument comes to mind on tracks like “Church Bells,” particularly in the rolling, hypnotic bassline: like Johnathan Ford, Chris Ware coaxes a stunning amount of grace and finesse from his instrument without ever sacrificing the low-end. Lee Corum’s drumming is a paradox: it seems to be going all over the place and this close to falling apart at any moment, and yet rather than distract, the chaotic-ness adds a jazz-like energy and vibe to the music.

Meanwhile, George Asimakos’ guitar is the band’s secret weapon. Most of time, he’s content to wind his way through the band’s songs, providing some extra tonal color here or subtly affecting the song’s course there. But on “Motor Skills Are Hard to Control” (interesting title considering the band’s music wouldn’t survive even an ounce of imprecision) and the aforementioned “Church Bells,” his guitar slowly emerges as the focal point, and providing a necessary emotional catharsis in the midst of his bandmates’ tumult.

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