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CD REVIEW: Descend & Maintain - Chasing A Ghost
By Cyrus Rhodes - 09/30/2011 - 12:39 AM EDT

Artist: Band: Descend & Maintain
Album: Chasing A Ghost
Label: Lion Hunter Music
Genre: Alternative Pop/Rock
Sounds Like: Gin Blossoms, Bare-Naked Ladies
Technical Grade: 6/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 7/10
Best Songs: I Wish You Well, A Thousand Little Secrets, Everybody’s Judas
Weakness: Substandard Mix, Odd sounding Drum Performances
CD Review: California’s own Descend & Maintain featuring Eric Lansing release their latest CD entitled Chasing a Ghost in 2011.

The CD kicks off into high gear with solid rock vibe, “Justine” a psychedelic guitar groove meshed against emotionally charged vocal delivery and well placed harmonies from lead singer Eric Lansing. Track 2 “I Hope” serves up another solid low end groove, with acoustic-folk rock musical flow coupled with hooky harmonies & impressive vocal accents. Track 3 my personal favorite “I Wish you Well” shifts gears with its upbeat musical intro eventually lending itself into a pulsating rock groove meshed with an infectious alternative-rock melody that flows & ebbs its way through fruition. The CD makes a solid first impression dishing out 3 rock solid songs in a row. As the CD unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Gin Blossoms, Elvis Costello, Beatles, and brief splashes of The Bare-Naked Ladies. The overall musical vibe has a nice, raw indie feel to it with a late 70’s psychedelic flair. The guitar playing is rock solid across the board as he dishes out impressive surfer-rock guitar licks, rock solid rhythm guitar playing & a few notable solos. Equally as impressive is Lansing’s vocal presence indicating to me a strong and confident vocal ability. His voice goes down smooth and is full of passion and recklessness abandon. The musicianship from all the other members in the band is above the bar and has everything you would expect from a standard 4 piece delivery. Along the way you will also notice many other impressive musical textures from things like well-placed piano, strings, Hammond Organ, lush harmonies, well placed keyboard and even percussive accents. The songs themselves are short & sweet musical experiences, each one possessing unique personality, flair, and signature groove. From heartfelt “Chasing a Ghost” to rocking Brother” to hypnotic “A Thousand Little Secrets” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 12: “Running Dry the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.  

Drum performances on some tracks sound a bit odd to me and don’t flow well with the music. I even detected several notable timing flaws. The snare drum tone on a few tracks sticks out like a sore thumb and sounds like a shotgun. The vocals on track 1 are a bit hot. I literally had to turn down the volume because the levels were so high. I soon realized there was a bigger issue at hand. Despite the truly great performances, it’s fair to say there was something odd going on with this production. Zeroing in on the recording, mixing and mastering – I suspect it’s the mixing. It’s fair to say this mix is a bit all over the place and lacks continuity track for track. From vocals sound disproportionate to the music, to odd sounding harmonies, extreme right & left pans to awkward low end punch – this mix has all the trademarks of a basement band mix job. Mixing will always be the biggest make or break for any production. When done right by a seasoned professional will leave a lasting impression, when not done right by someone who thinks they can pull it off - will stick out like a sore thumb. Each phase of the production process (recording, mixing, mastering) should be handled by an experienced professional – especially the mix. The liner notes are non-existent so I have no way of knowing who the Engineers were.

Chasing a Ghost by Descend and Maintain is a rock solid statement. It’s strong suit – the song for song rock solid consistency & amazing vocal presence of lead singer Eric Lansing.  If this band has a slam dunk live presentation then that would make a pretty lethal combination. No doubt they are a lot of fun to check out live. So if you like college alternative rock that dishes out a power pop aftertaste then you should jump into this CD head first.

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