Branches is one of those albums that takes strength from having its identity split across multiple genres. It is also undeniably one of – if not the – smoothest album of this year.

Release date: November 8, 2019 | National Sawdust Tracks | Facebook | Bandcamp

Square Peg Round Hole is a unique trio of musicians from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; made up of Evan Chapman, Sean M. Gill, and Carlos Pacheco-Perez, their aural arsenal consists of drums, found objects, samples, synths, vibraphone, and vintage analog keyboards. With this rich palette of sounds, in conjunction with their one-of-a-kind vision, Square Peg Round Hole give birth to a sonic delivery like no other. Branches is the band’s third full-length album, and it sees the group moving forward with grace and a special charm.

Branches successfully branches out into several different realms of music, taking a little something from each and managing to forge an authentic timbre that is as dynamic as it is gentle. This may sound somewhat counterintuitive, but you don’t have to take my word for it – the tunes will prove it all by themselves. From a structural point of view, we notice that the album leans heavily on post-rock and/or ambient pieces of foundation. That is, of course, only for the most part; there are some bits that stray away for the sake of diversity or because the song demands it.

As for how these structures are embellished, well, I honestly think that’s where the magic starts happening. Various electronic tinges are splattered fairly evenly throughout, fleshing out textures that wouldn’t be attainable otherwise, which makes this not only an apt use of this element, but a creative one as well. Some sounds on Branches hearken back to a modern classical music frame of reference ever so slightly. It is worth noting in this context that there isn’t any one actual instrument leading the action forward, since they all sit well-balanced in the mix. However, the flow of the album is propelled by the expansive textures and the heavily percussive delivery of the tunes.

“He(a)r With Me Now” is a fine example of where the aforementioned electronic element shines quite beautifully. No aspect of the song overshadows any of the others; everything stays in its place, mingling effortlessly. “Fever Dream” showcases the magnificent flow mentioned earlier very well. It is also one of the more dynamic parts of the album, lending a hand in giving the listener a more engaging experience. “Hearts, Pounding” is easily the one song that leans the most on texture, expanding with a robust and ample, yet diaphanous vibe into an unexpected but ultimately fitting ending.

If I were to say that there is some sort of binding narrative across the record, it would be true and false at the same time. It doesn’t feel like there is a particular story that lies beneath the music, but at the same time there is an intense and intimate emotional charge that oozes out of every increment of the album, which appears to add a certain narrative glow. This emotional charge gains depth through – and is amplified by – the soft, soothing, and suave sounds that articulate all the things Square Peg Round Hole laid down. Not to mention that the sterling production value makes all this magic flash with a surreal elegance.

I could go on and on, breaking down each second of every song, and it wouldn’t do even an iota of justice to the album. It also wouldn’t be an accurate representation of all the subtleties that dance around within. Branches is an ethereal display of beauty that is best encompassed by the shivers that run down the spine and by the goosebumps that flare up all over. I don’t know what you would call the music Square Peg Round Hole are making, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t doing it right.

Robert Miklos

Robert Miklos

What can I say? I love slapping keys and listening to squiggly air.

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