Quo Vadimus is the sophomore effort from Philadelphias Jena Berlin. Unfortunately, odds are that most of you reading this are unfamiliar with the group despite releasing an extremely promising debut in 2005. This, in my opinion, makes the title of the album all the more fitting. Quo vadimus is Latin for Where are we going? On the surface this phrase might not mean much, but when referencing the phrase to an indie music artist, it takes on a lot of meaning.
The independent music world is a clusterfuck of bands trying their damnedest to break through and be noticed, much like our current presidential campaign. So, in my assessment, Jena Berlin could have chosen this title to inquire several things. My top two guesses are as follows: Where are we planning to go with this band? Where the hell are we going because weve been driving for four hours and have passed that barn six times?
Quo Vadimus answers these questions - okay, maybe just the first one - as it unveils itself over the thirty-eight minutes. The album commences with Chelsea and immediately the direction, musically speaking, of the band is obvious. The members of Jena Berlin come together with a dynamic blend of solid grooves, intricate guitars, and a tight rhythm section. Imagine Silent Majority, Garrison, and At the Drive-In fused as one and youd be along the right path. Add vocalist Jon Loudons semi-rough vocals that fall between Hot Water Music and Boy Sets Fire and youve got a great sound.
Jena Berlin continues to cruise along with Communique. One thing that is especially worth noting is the guitar work of Dave Klyman and Jordan Kolenc. They mix together post-hardcore inspired grooves and interweaving melodies into a superb sound. Instruments continues the energetic output and really highlights the rhythm section of Jeff Myers (drums) and Jarod Weldin (bass). The basslines really drive the song and the drum work is spot-on; meanwhile the guitars give off a Quicksand vibe.
A couple of songs in and you might think you have an idea of where Jena Berlin is going with this, but youd be wrong. Jena Berlin is more than just a one trick pony. They also find time to mix in more refined sounds. I Swear Were Leaving ventures off towards those delicate sounds and really pays homage to the bands influence from Texas is the Reason. Dancing is a short number that continues to work with this sound. Loudon really becomes the focal point on these songs as the music takes a backseat to his voice.
But, as much as I love the diversity exhibited on Quo Vadimus, I really feel the band is at their best when they play it fast and aggressive. Crossed Arms calls to mind the best of the D.C. post-hardcore sound. This song had me jumping all over the place. Sand is equally as energizing.
So we have the two mindsets of Jena Berlin, and then we have those songs that seem to blur the line between them. Motion Sickness sets itself apart as the most dynamic song of the album. It really fluctuates between the more intricate and aggressive sounds with such ease. Island Living and The Dilemma also delve into this style.
So after youve listened to the last notes of closer And Another Thing it all comes together and you truly can see just what Jena Berlin is doing. Quo Vadimus is an album of a band that has built on their influences and constructed a diverse album that makes for a great listen with repeated plays. So where is the band going? After listening to this album many times over, I, regrettably, have come to the conclusion that Jena Berlin is one of those bands destined to be an underrated sensation. They will continue to fly below most individuals radar until many years have gone by after their breakup. So take the time to investigate the band; I think youll be pleasantly surprised with what you hear.
8.0 / 10
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