I as many loved Torche’s debut LP Meanderthal . Mostly it was an album of possibilities: Crafted by Floor and Cavity alum it felt like a genuine sludge-doom-drone album only performed in the major key — a rarity in 2008 as it is today. Never mind its underdeveloped melodies; at worst it felt like short-haired metalheads rediscovering the less-than-cool ’90s alt of their youth — no cares for Slint here — and at best it sounded like Astronaut -era Hum dipping its toes in shoegaze pools. Their less impressive follow-up 2010’s Songs For Singles EP did little to harm Meanderthal ’s sugar buzz. Shit was fun. Shit was undeniably Torche. We didn’t ask questions.
With Harmonicraft however we’re plenty more discerning. Here’s the good: Harmonicraft cements the Miami troupe’s skill at penning memorable pop-sludge riffs. And there’s plenty of ho-leeeee shit moments to be found at least in isolation — “Solitary Traveler” happily touches onto sleepy ’gazer territories “Sky Trial’s”’s racing melody could pass for chiptune and “Snakes Are Charmed”’s wonderful dreaming breakdown impresses without bludgeoning. Indeed if there’s a takeaway for Harmonicraft it’s that Torche’s pop sensibilities are no fluke.
Still Harmonicraft relies far too heavily on Torche’s melodic ear — there’s good reason why early reviews have made Soundgarden comparisons. (Seriously. Soundgarden.) Competent as it may be — and succinct with few tracks topping the five-minute mark — Harmonicraft strips the band’s more fascinating moments: Production isn’t nearly as bowel-moving. Dreamy meandering is kept to a minimum. And most disappointingly the LP hardly bends Torche’s established aesthetic ditching the genre exploration that made Meanderthal so thrilling in the first place. Harmonicraft isn’t an admission of Torche’s defeat but certainly isn’t an ambitious step forward either.