Album Review: The Ongoing Concept – “Handmade”

The Ongoing Concept
(Solid State Records)

I have trouble figuring out how to use a microwave in other people’s houses let alone figure out how to build instruments from scratch all out of one pine tree. For the Idaho-based rockers that make up The Ongoing Concept, however, that didn’t seem to be much of a problem. That’s right, the four-piece’s sophomore full-length release, Handmade, is perhaps the most aptly titled album of 2015 as it truly was made by hand from the ground up.

Throughout the record The Ongoing Concept consistently remind the listener that they did in fact cut down a tree to make their instruments. The pine they used even makes a cameo as the sounds of it being chopped down kick off the album into a flurry. Throughout the rest of the record various tracks hint at the DIY methods the band used. The single “Unwanted” offers up something strangely off kilter and hollow about the drums adding both a uniqueness and unrefined aesthetic to the album. And in the end, the handmade notion comes full circle as the hacking away at the tree concludes the record alongside the elegant keys utilized in “Falling.”

Other tracks like “Survivor” embrace a groovy but distorted twang of a bass line that sonically imitates the sound of something literally about to fall apart. You can’t help but pray that the instrument is actually going to “survive” the track. But, of course, it does, thus making “Survivor” one of the more complex pieces on the record.

This truly DIY approach is strange and on paper sounds like it shouldn’t work, but just as with The Ongoing Concept’s debut record, the ragtime-fiddle-blaring Saloon, Handmade comes together flawlessly like French fries in ice cream. From the jazzy upbeats of “Amends” to the funk undertones hidden within “Feel” and “Unwanted,” Handmade transcends a variety of classic, tried and true genres and lumps them into the unexpected: contemporary punk.

While The Ongoing Concept reared more in a classic rock direction than in their previous record, their signature rock twang and need to experiment is still ever present. Easily the strongest track on the album, “Soul” pairs southern rock with hardcore to sonically emulate the communal vibe of a live bar gig while showcasing the strongest lyrics on the album. A total hush rolls over the entire record as clean vocalist Kyle Scholz doles out the line “Oh I don’t wanna be forgotten.”

As with most records that take risks, not all experimental moments pay off as well as others. Midway through the album the softest track on the record, “Melody,” chimes in. While “Melody” isn’t technically “bad,” abruptly adding a track worthy of a romantic indie film’s theme song feels jarring and out of place when lopped directly into the center of such a roaring record. The same out of place notion arrives again with “Trophy,” the heaviest and most unclean vocal reliant track. By relinquishing all ties to the experimental in order to make a standard metalcore track, it becomes just a good, and therefore forgettable, song amongst a sea of great songs.

For being built from scratch, Handmade is a pretty impressive cake to pull out of the oven. Showing how far the music world has come mixing genres, this four piece created an out-of-the-box album that not only surpasses typical record conventions, but also sets the bar high for records, both DIY and major label-produced, to come. (Natasha Van Duser)

Purchase Handmade on iTunes.

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