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Published: 2005/11/13
by Randy Ray

Overstand – Starrunner

self-released

Starrunner plays cat-and-mouse games with time signatures that recall quite a few bands from jam’s yesteryears. However, the Chicago quartet offers fresh music with vocal harmonies that drift over the scene. Lead singer and bass guitarist, Ryan Behling, is a unique cross between Perry Farrell, Robert Plant and Jon Anderson, while the band nails down snappy grooves. The audio detours lead to hip-hop, rap, soul and an eyebrow, raising stab at prog rock without pretension.

Quite frankly, what initially hooked me was that while the post-Phish world is undergoing a civil war between those that accept Trey Anastasio’s new music and those that reject every note from his time zone, bands like Starrunner toy with some of the same song structures that Phish originally conquered. Songs like “Avocado” and “Bowlegged Centipede” seem innocent and full of joy — a band knowing what it wants and playing the result. You can almost hear the engineer: “Alright. Let’s get on with it.”

After dismissing that foolish Phish comparison, I noticed the band’s ability just to lay down some mojo while keyboardist Peter James Zuninski dipped into glorious melodies and Behling narrated “Tomorrow.” The entire band slipped into several dimensions of a soft jam for an 11-minute slice of bliss on this track. Not exactly brain surgery “Reba”-perfection but, damned if I didn’t get a huge kick out of this song. The pure and simple task of enjoying a tune againjust listening and soaking in the vibe without any notion of understanding the lyrics or even caring that feel that a group searches for in the eternal quest for a hook or something to bring the jaded ears back again and again.

Throughout Overstand, guitarist Dallas Wade plays a distorted tone that sounds artlessly dirty and at the same time beautifully succinct. His solos are tasteful without a touch of wanky shenanigans. However, it is the graceful and soft touch of Zubinski on piano and Oscar Loubriel on drums that lend the songs a warm and dense texture. Zubinski skirts along the periphery while Loubriel accents a gentle beat that straddles instead of suffocating the melody. Patience rewards and several songs slowly unfold towards a well-rounded climax featuring Wade assimilating diverse messages into a single theme.

The trio at the CD’s coda rest upon a bed of 18 minutes of acoustic sunrise leading into a bluegrass shuffle into interstellar space into rock anchored by a band that did its weighty homework before entering the studio to produce music that effortlessly reaches the listener. I’m not saying that I’ve found the next medium or big anything; I’ve found a little bit of what you want when you simply ask for something new: a floating wave of music that takes you far from shore, lifts you up, tosses you under and returns you to land in some different frame of mindthe timeless curiosity that segues into more experiments in spatial molecule adjustments. Next time, tackle Trey’s “A Good Stalk>That Dream Machine”"Dave's Energy Guide" Part IIand I’ll really be impressed.

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