Heston Rifle – 20 Strings

3 out of 5

Label: Inner-Flight Records

Produced by: Ted Clark

Funny story: I went ga-ga over Heston Rifle’s 2005 album, What To Do At Time of Accident…, questioning why I’d brushed off this (mostly) instrumental act as rather generic. Then when I went back and listened to 20 Strings, I remembered.

With that quip made, 20 Strings’ four tracks are still a worthwhile, and promising, listen, but they’re definitely less refined than what would appear on the followup, sticking to a more predictable quiet-loud-quiet flow with strings broken up by distorted guitar riffing. There’s the outline of the “middleground” I’d praised – a compositional sensibility in which the group combines all of the best from various mellow and heavy instrumental acts and boils them down to one cohesive track – just less so; there’s less being combined, and it leans more on a mid-era Russian Circles-y sense of buildup. Third track Quad does begin to bring in further rock influences to the post-rock stew, proving there were better things to come, but otherwise, with a less meaty production to highlight the group’s skills, 20 Strings could more easily get crowded out by many (then) similar soundalikes in the instrumental rock circuit.