Southern California’s To Be Gentle offer an irresistible, at times totally danceable screamo via their self-titled, debut record, available March 22. They carry contrast to dramatic extremes and have a tremendous amount to say in the process, sweeping across the musical landscape from frantic blast beats to glimmering, extra-technical feeling post-rock textures with ease. The vocal work goes on a similar roller-coaster, presenting as almost spoken word as easily as screams claw at the listener’s psyche. Each one of the band’s ingredients get the chance to shine like they’re part of a nicely cooked meal while they turn their sonic contrasts into pointed questions about the stability or lack thereof inherent in our existence. To Be Gentle’s new album feels like an encapsulation of the tension between what we have and what we want, mapping out the painful, disjointed place between our actual reality and what’s just in our dreams.
Remarkably, despite the discomfort and pain inherent in that situation, To Be Gentle’s new album isn’t all doom and gloom. While life can be miserable, misery isn’t life, to indulge in some generalization. They carry their directness into their lyrical themes, offering a blunt assessment that sometimes feeling like a chunk of your invisible self got ripped away is only so that something more enriching can grow in its place. Their contrast comes together in a sprawling final showdown between emotional breakdown and release, really hitting the spot for those who might be in need of some sonic salve to get kickstarted into high gear. To Be Gentle feel like they focus on easing into some of the darker psychological corners rather than just coming through with a sonic sledgehammer and hoping for the best. Their overarching drive gets reflected both in the lyrics and the music, all of which permeates with an urgent energy and obvious passion that make this release really stick out.
The music sports complexity right alongside its clarity, serving as an all-too-perfect vehicle for the “messaging” the band is getting at. Rather than summarizing their take in some kind of bio blurb or whatever else, their album deserves to be experienced. To Be Gentle have taken the intensely cathartic screamo framework and expanded it outward, drawing outside elements into their universe in a manner that should be felt.
Listen to the record via Bandcamp: