Written By Simon Chisholm
‘Fixed At Zero’ is Florida band Versa Emerge’s debut LP. The best way to sum up this music is to call it progressive pop rock. A progression from 2009’s Self-titled E.P. the trio (now duo) have polished off their song writing, performance and production chops to create a hard hitting progressive album with a pop punk backbone.
The music was definitely written and arranged by Blake. It is typical guitarist music, being a bit wanky at times. Each of the tracks features some rather intricate arrangements of instrumental parts. The accompaniment goes further than the typical rock band scenario, making use of harmonised and layered vocals, strings, synthesizers, programmed percussion and electronic nuances. The guitar work has a push and pull with the string sections, almost fusing the sounds for an epic layered tone. The harmonic changes are strong, causing the tracks to rise and fall dramatically and take the audience along with it. While the tracks are relatively busy, the texture is sparse enough to allow the listener to appreciate even the smallest element in the sound.
Sierra’s vocals are a strong, solid effort, using a variety of different timbres. Blake’s performance is transparent in contrast. The melodies and hooks are catchy. The lyrics seem to aim at being deep and metaphorical, and they are. The subject matter seems to focus on angst, inner turmoil and motivation.
The level of production is high. There is a lot of processing, including heavy quantization, causing it to sound very shiny and plastic. Having such complex layering of instrumentation and processing one would think that being bombarded with so much sound would be tiring on the ears. On the contrary, the LP has mixed in such a fashion that your ears are filled with sound, without any fatiguing or headaches.
The songs on this album are a mixture of styles and emotions, which create a mixture of implications. The notable tracks I have chosen include: ‘Figure It Out’, Fixed At Zero’, ‘Fire (Aim Your Arrows)’, and ‘Your Own Love’. The final track, ‘Lost Tree’ sums up the record by returning to key elements of each track and dancing around them. This gives the artists a chance to really show off their performance chops. It’s a nice way to conclude the album, almost like we’ve on a journey, and the final track is analysing and replaying the twists and turns in the road.
Versa Emerge are:
Sierra Kusterbeck – Vocals
Blake Harnage – Guitar, Vocals, Programming
Devin Ingelido – Bass, Vocals
‘Fixed At Zero’ released in 2010 by Fueled By Ramen. Produced by Dave Bassett.