Talking Under Water, who got their fun name from pianist/vocalist Dave Chisholm’s four-year-old niece, is a singer-songwriter group consisting of a unique blend of instruments. Breathy, bluesy vocals on their latest EP, Ether, lend well to the simple, often lamenting lyrics. However, in spite of the melancholy nature of the lyrics these songs are charged and insist you hear their story, which is told both lyrically and instrumentally through the use of intentional pauses and tempo changes. The last song on the EP, “First Act”, demonstrates this story-telling well with the use of additional strings, and it almost feels as if you’re watching a play which is fitting when you consider the title and lyrics. The success of getting the musical components to mirror the lyrics speaks to the artistry of the composition.
Talking Under Water effortlessly and gracefully bridges genres from progressive rock to blues to alternative/indie rock, often within the same song. It’s refreshing to see a group that can change up the pace right when you think you know where a song is going. The use of the cello in the rhythm section contributes to this eclectic sound through dark undertones full of vibrato that ground the music in a poetic way particular to this instrument. (Although, having played the cello for many years myself, I could be considered biased.)
There are moments where classical elements are blended masterfully with rock, specifically in “Nomad”, that remind me of Electric Light Orchestra in terms of playfulness. The achieved balance here comes from the empathy generated through the lyrics and the light-hearted melodies that trigger a smile. I would be lying if I said I didn’t smile to myself at least once while listening to this EP in my car for the first time.
Although, I haven’t had the privilege of seeing Talking Under Water play live yet, I get the sense that as good as the recordings are, the musicianship of the individual members of this group really shines through in live performance. If you’re in Rochester, NY check them out at Abilene Bar and Lounge on June 6th.
This EP is also available for purchase on iTunes.