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CD REVIEW: Sika - The Phenomenon EP
By Alex Jasperse - 10/02/2007 - 11:16 PM EDT

Artist: Band: Sika
Album: The Phenomenon EP [2007]
Label: Independent
Genre: Post Grunge and Electronica
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8.0/10
Songwriting Skills: 6.0/10
Performance Skill: 6.0/10
CD Review:

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that for something to be recognized as a ‘phenomenon’ some basic documentation is required – otherwise, a phenomena would be nothing more than a run-of-the-mill oddity. While blunting the term to mean something that’s “surprising” or “unusual” may make it more accessible, caution in its use as a descriptor should be exercised nonetheless, especially in the music world.

More of a post-grunge stab at progressive rock, Sika’s debut, The Phenomenon EP, simply isn’t. Deeply rooted in familiar structures, tones and riffs, its four-song lineup serves to disappoint those who hope to hold Sika to the promises made by the album’s title track…

Ironically, “Phenomenon” is the most familiar sounding track on the album, as delicate acoustic guitars become intertwined with lead Aleksey Zharino’s medium range vocals. Although crisp production techniques and tightly arranged instrumental layers colour the track with a predominantly pop-oriented flavour, Sika’s attention to smaller textural details (such as quiet reversing textures, the warmth of reverb-laden guitars whispering in the background, and march-like snare rhythms) reveals not only another dimension of talent, but an incentive for listeners to come back to discover something new each time.

‘Surprising’ in the sense that there’s a sudden volume shift – rather than being anything revelatory – a snarling entrance that’s reminiscent of AFI’s hardcore punk pieces, and 30 Seconds to Mars’s highly commercialized post-grunge ‘bite,’ kicks in. The combination of Zharinov’s (sudden) pre-pubescent vocal tone, a Ghostbusters’s bass line, distorted guitar riffage, and simplistic key lines (à la industrial metal), makes “Asleep Again” utterly ridiculous when factored into the overall makeup of the EP. (Why this piece was tacked on to the line up may be the only true inexplicable phenomenon on the EP). Then, as the pace abruptly shifts back to a lower gear in “2x7 4x4,” it’s difficult not to vocalize your own frustration equations as the sense of disconnect is further magnified.

Thankfully, “2x7 4x4” makes all the necessary repairs and improvements to get Sika back up and running again. With the vocal duties in the hands of one of the other bandmates, the grainier tones mixed with pulsating guitar riffs welcome back the warmer features showcased in “Phenomenon.” Zharinov’s lead vocals rise from the background to centre stage, taking on traces of Muse’s lead singer Matt Bellamy’s voice (reminiscent of “Sing for Absolution,” in particular), while beautiful piano riffs are sprinkled over top of the ascending melody. The Muse influence is not strictly limited to the vocals though, as demonstrated by Nate McLain’s ferocious tremolo picking guitar solo, which elevates the piece to a near-anthemic height.

Whether it’s an indication of deeper REM or second thoughts, so as to redeem themselves to a particular segment of the audience, “Asleep Again (Naphini Remix)” transforms what initially felt like a teenage temper tantrum into a reserved and well thought-out musical statement. Simplifying and stripping the original song down to its core – trimming much of the guitar dominated latter half away – the bombastic force of big beats and synth domination (borderline, The Crystal Method), makes it the standout piece on The Phenomenon EP

With Sika, there is a grandiose spirit, an excitement and talent fueling each track with a creative energy that would feed a full-length album (indicating that perhaps it’s time to consider making an album). However, the sudden shifts are more jarring than cohesive, and in the larger musical picture, The Phenomenon EP is far from being anything new. It is interesting yes, but it won’t be turning many heads. A longer round two in the studio might be a different story, though…

The Verdict: 6.6/10

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