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Kevin’s Record Corner: The Pirate Ship Quintet

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by Ryan Downs in Entertainment

It is a cinematic rarity: a remake that actually makes sense. The original It is specifically the sort of movie that deserves a second go, insofar as it made a genuine, [...]

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Forgive me for how cliché this may sound, but music is one of the best vessels for emotion. There are very few things in this world that share music’s ability to both make us want to dance, and make us want to cry. To pick us up during a bad day, or make us straight up want to punch somebody in the face.

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

To me, what separates a good musician from a great musician is the ability to convey more complex emotions. It’s not difficult to write a song that makes people feel happy, or sad, or angry. However, it is a great feat to make a listener feel something more specific; like loss, or hope, or desire.

This is what I was thinking when I was listening to The Pirate Ship Quintet’s album “Rope For No-Hopers.” This album developed in me an emotion that I hadn’t felt from music ever before, as far as I can remember: True cognitive dissonance. A storm of emotions within me, all clashing with each other, leaving my brain very confused as to what it was supposed to be thinking.

And I loved every minute of it.

The Pirate Ship Quintet are a post rock band from the UK, with influences in 90s screamo and classical. They released their first EP back in 2007, and their second release, “Rope For No-Hopers” in 2012. Their sound can be described only as “unique,”or if you want to go with a more ambiguous non-description, I guess they could also be described as being “awesome.”

Being a post rock band, the Quintet’s music is characteristically somber. Listening to it filled my head with images of bleak landscapes, with ambient, methodically picked chords echoing over the depressed moan of a cello. The sound could be described as “ambience in motion,” with a constant buildup of sound that always seems to be driving to a payoff, but the Quintet, being the teases they are, seem to enjoy bringing their music to a number of false heads before suddenly shifting tone to the beginning of a whole new segment.

That’s not to say that the music never goes anywhere, though. After a number of false buildups, the songs do eventually come to a fantastic payoff, and the extended buildup of buildups makes these points all the more poignant and powerful, and it is at these points that The Pirate Ship Quintet’s music really shines.

Vocals in The Pirate Ship Quintet’s music is sparse at the best of times. They compose solely of occasional bouts of intense, incomprehensible screams, in true classic scream style. Unless you have hearing rivaling that of Daredevil, good luck figuring out what is actually being said without a lyrics sheet, but really it doesn’t matter anyway, because even without knowing what is being said, the vocals deliver enough emotion on their own that they’re almost unnecessary. They make a fantastic topping to the music, like a garnish on a beautifully crafted dessert.

What makes The Pirate Ship Quintet unique among post-rock bands is their ability to drum up the aforementioned cognitive dissonance. While their ambient sound is overbearing and depressive for the most part, I can’t help but get feel an occasional glint of hopefulness from the composition, a momentary splash of color from the beginning of a beautiful sunrise on the horizon of the bleak landscape that these songs create. It’s difficult to lay a finger on what elements create this feeling, but it call comes together in a vague bittersweet sensation that you just don’t hear in much music ever.

At the end of the day, I can’t help but find The Pirate Ship Quintet’s music to be incredibly compelling. Sure, it’s not something I’d put on for a party or my daily commute, but it’s well composed, with brilliant composition and masterful integration of surprise elements such as the cello and harsh vocals. If you’re in the market for something that is unique and that will challenge your mind with a barrage of complex emotions, then I would heartily recommend you check this band out.

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