Minus The Bear - Acoustics (Distro Title)
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Minus the Bear was always a guitar band at heart. The elaborate finger-tapped melodies of This Is What I Know About Being Gigantic and Highly Refined Pirates set the Seattle quintet apart from other forward-thinking indie rock acts of the time, but the band’s creative trajectory showed an increasing fascination with supplementary electronics and new sonic approaches. While keyboards and drum machine break-beats were already a feature on early releases, the band delved deeper into modern sounds with the glitchy DL4-fueled guitar samples on Menos El Oso and the remix album Interpretaciones Del Oso. But then the band released Acoustics, a collection featuring one new unplugged track and six old favorites from their first three albums stripped of modern ornamentations and re-envisioned for the acoustic guitar. Given the band’s interest in new music technology, this deconstructed approach served to highlight their strength as songwriters, their dexterity as players, and their malleability as composers. Album opener “Guns & Ammo” serves as Acoustics’ sole new track, and its nimble chord arpeggios and sweeping chorus instantly affirm that Minus the Bear’s interest in electronic gadgetry was never a crutch for constructing or executing their songs. Old fan favorites like “We Are Not A Football Team” and “Ice Monster” retain all their grace and beauty even after the amplifiers are switched off, with the modest studio treatment highlighting the humble, human power of the song’s core components. Minus the Bear showed us how their songs could be reinterpreted for the electronic crowd on Interpretaciones, but on Acoustics, we hear more intimate and organic renditions of songs that were initially reliant on technology. This new take on “Pachuca Sunrise” might not be immediately recognizable now that the chiming, delay-pulsed electric guitars are replaced by open acoustic chords, but once Jake Snider comes in with the opening lines of the first verse, it all comes flooding back. Minus the Bear was always a multi-faceted creative unit with an unceasing appetite for new aural territories, but with Acoustics they reminded us of the simple genius and charm at the root of all their music.