Floor, Oblation: Offerings and Homegoings

It’s been just over four years since Miami trio Floor played a one-off reunion show that warned, “One show. One chance. Don’t blow it,” and it’s been a decade since the band’s sophomore outing, Dove, was released in 2004. Since that time, the band has spawned a family tree rivaled by few, members of the lineup throughout their 12-year initial run going on to play in acts like Torche, Dove, House of Lightning, MonstrO, Holly Hunt and Cavity (the latter of whom ran concurrent to Floor and who seem like fodder for a reunion of their own), among others. The biggest impact in terms of audience has unquestionably been by Torche, who, led by guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, inherited much of their pop-meets-bomb-drop-sludge-riffing ethic directly from Brooks‘ work in Floor, continuing to refine those methods and ultimately creating something new from them. Both bands now active, Floor release their first album since Dove and first new material since their reunion — 2009’s 8CD discography box set Below and Beyond notwithstanding — in the form of Oblation on Season of Mist. Its title refers to “an offering,” and that may well be what Floor have in mind, but while the core focus on tone and pop melody remains intact, there have been some very distinct changes in the approach of Floor — the trio of Steve Brooks, guitarist Anthony Vialon (2010 interview here) and drummer Henry Wilson — since they issued their landmark 2002 self-titled debut and they show up audibly in the listening experience of Oblation.

That’s to be expected, right? It has been a decade. To expect Floor to get back together and release Floor Pt. 2 seems unreasonable and unfair. As righteous as that album is, for Brooks, Vialon and Wilson to have come in with the intent of recapturing that magic — and it is the self-titled lineup that’s reunited — would be shooting themselves in the foot before they started. No. Oblation is a collection of songs poised not to surrogate the hooks of old, but to serve as a beginning for this new stage of the band. In short, Floor have grown up. Oblation is not the work of a three-piece experimenting with their sound and happening into brilliance. There is poise, confidence, and awareness at its root, and whether it’s the ultra-thick underlying chugging of the spacious opening title-track or the ensuing upbeat rush of “Rocinante” — one of Floor‘s sonic gifts was to not only have tones so thick, but to make them move, and that remains the case here — or the standalone megastomp of “Love Comes Crushing,” the band offer crisp, assured songcraft and a defining clarity of intent. While the songs remain exciting well beyond the simple novelty of their existence, a new Floor album seeming like an impossibility for years, that clarity necessarily comes in trade for the spontaneous sensibility of their earlier work. That’s the nature of creative progression — once you know what you’re doing, your approach to it changes. The middle section of Oblation that runs from “New Man,” through “Sister Sophia,” “The Quill” and the aforementioned “Love Comes Crushing” before getting to the catchy “War Party” still works as a fitting summary for Floor‘s aesthetic — thick, at times lush, alternately crawling, running, but always moving, etc. — but it does so more in triumph at its level of execution than in raw punkish urgency.

Couple that with the fact that Oblation is a full 10 minutes longer than either Floor (32 min.) or Dove (34 min.), and it becomes clear that a more attentive mindset is needed on the part of the listener, and that as enjoyable as it is to be carried along the tide of riffs through side A cuts like “Trick Scene” and “Find Away” — both reinforcing Wilson‘s mastery of half-timing the drums to further open the sense of space in the recording — before the 47-second “The Key” thrusts into the middle of the album, that’s only the beginning of a longer trip. Though it’s undoubtedly made with two-sided vinyl in mind, one can almost take the tracklist in thirds: a series of bunches of tracks; four at the start, five in the middle, and then five at the end beginning with “War Party” and running through the relatively subdued but memorably layered “Homegoings and Transitions,” the just-under-eight-minute “Sign of Aeth,” and the closing duo of “Raised to a Star” and “Forever Still.” This final section is defined in large part by its longest piece, which alternates between a minimally-paced slug and mid-gear push, but both the finale tracks serve as a reminder¬†of the efficiency with which Floor are able to execute their ideas, both songs together totaling just over five minutes. Taken in the context of the album as a whole, which jumps deftly between speeds and rhythms, it’s all the more interesting to think Floor would want to end on a relatively fast note — “Forever Still” caps with an intricate chug that starts and stops in a kind of half-speed spazz rock precision — but it works, and the band’s ability to turn a three-minute song into an epic remains unabated, even after all this time. Whether Oblation will mark Floor‘s final offering, I don’t know, but there’s nothing in these songs to make me think they don’t still have more to offer. All the better then to have them back in the studio as well as on stage.

Floor, “Sister Sophia”

Floor on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply