Thank god for a group of folks like Invert, who have taken their musicianship very seriously (we're talking Yale, Harvard, and Berkley musical backgrounds), but have approached things in an extremely FUN way. A flipped version of the classical string quartet, the group includes an additional cello and manages to completely avoid any trendy tripwires or pompous pitfalls in their production of what can best be described by the admittedly clunky catch-all "neoclassical" genre.

Nietzschean strings dovetail across 15 tracks, each pivoting around the dynamic interplay between the musicians and their tools. The album includes a brief intro and a handful of interludes for good measure, but things don't fully flourish until the longer tracks like "Launchpad"  have time to simmer and boil into a frenzy of violent coaction. Two tracks also include guest percussion work, infusing a dose of good ol' dependable funk/rock into the mix.

What's ironic is despite the mix of short, long, and even themed tracks (Shigeru Umebayashi's "Yumeji's Theme" is rearranged), the disc maintains an extremely tight cohesiveness and accord. Not one musician or instrument overpowers another as the the pieces develop -- truly the epitome of classical collaboration. In fact, it's almost as if the artists transform into their instruments, rather than just play them. Whether it's the fierce slice of heavy strings slapping the speakers on the title-track or the delicate effusion displayed in the above-mentioned "Yumeji's Theme", the sound is chock full of character and life. Each piece animatedly beams with genuine meaning, as if introducing itself as a new friend.

Despite the accuracy of my hallucinogenic analogies, one thing is clear -- these guys are enjoying what they do. "The Peak" is a clear example of traditional classical music turned on its head, as the drums sync in with bouncy string work that is bound to make the listener double check what disc is playing. The group quickly rebounds with the somber, quiet explorations of "For Hinda" and "August Night". However, despite their atmospheric sadness, both pieces seem to soar with character and life upon multiple plays. Again, talent meets enjoyment and good music is made.

In retrospect, Miller's quote is easy to misconstrue. It's applicability to the modern music scene is solely in the hand of the subjective audience, however, I think it's fair to say that the seriousness many instrumental bands approach their music with can be a tad overwhelming. On the flip side, "fun" music doesn't have to necessarily be confined to maracas and dancing women (although that may not always hurt...). Regardless, Invert has successfully found a convivial middle ground on their latest release, which they seem to be more than slightly aware of given the suggestive album title. Oh yes, it is a Strange Parade.

Jonathan Brooks

www.invertmusic.org
The Silent Ballet
Score: 8/10

I think it was Henry Miller who said, "Music is a beautiful opiate, if you don't take it too seriously." That thought is exceedingly important in the realm of instrumental and post-rock music, where pretentiousness seems to come pre-packaged with tremolo, reverb, and crashing walls of sound. It's not to say that music needs to be lazy, goofy, or composed in a sandbox; rather it appears this genre is simply overpopulated with folks who believe the sound they push through speakers cannot be touched by others and can only be appreciated by those lucky enough to understand the upper echelon of instrumental rock (also known as the "Golden Shit Syndrome").