Plumbiferous Media

On the Ones and Threes – Versus

Aug 8th 2010
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On the Ones and Threes - VersusVersus
On the Ones and Threes
Score: 87

NYC band Versus’s newest album, On the Ones and Threes, was released this past Tuesday. A great new addition to Versus’s extensive list of albums, singles, EPs, and compilations, On the Ones and Threes is Versus once again at the top of its game, following its long leave of absence. Versus is quite clearly still heavily entrenched in the ’90s, but given the excellence of the album, that’s certainly not a bad thing.

Richard Baluyut and Fontaine Toups share vocals on On the Ones and Threes, with a delivery that is calmly fluid, alternately flowing alongside the superb instrumentals and providing them with an intriguing contrast. Both Baluyut and Toups are excellent alone, but the height of the album’s instrumentals is in the vocal harmonies created by the two together. On tracks like “Nu Skin,” this is akin to an additional instrument. Whether the vocals act in that way, simply as accompaniment, or in the front-line role that best does them justice, they are always further developing an already rich musical landscape.

While at first many of On the Ones and Threes‘ lyrics seem to make little sense, on a close listening, it becomes obvious that Versus has done a commendable job at both incorporating complex imagery into the lyrics and making those images fit the music seamlessly. Whether the band’s describing solitude as a vacuum or singing “Seven long years / I’ve been left for dead” on “Cicada,” it quite simply works. On the Ones and Threes rarely falls into lyrical traps such as over-repetition or un-originality – even when it repeats, it’s done creatively enough not to bore.

On the Ones and Threes is, judged solely on instrumentals, one of the most ingenuitive albums recently released. Beginning with the excellent blending of guitar and other strings on the first track, followed with the surprising, but perfectly fitting, prolonged solo-instrumental section of “Nu Skin,” and lasting through the mingling moods of the album’s final track, “The Ones and Threes,” the album’s instrumentals remain engrossing, extremely energetic, and perfectly designed. Versus moves through sections with expert timing to perfectly engage the listener, and On the Ones and Threes‘s mixture of indie, alt, and (good) prog styles, while not exactly unique anymore, is certainly refreshing to hear done so well.

To top it all off, On the Ones and Threes connects its various elements beautifully. The instrumentals of “Into Blue,” are perfectly crafted to support Fontaine Toups’s especially melodic vocals, and the same goes for Richard Baluyut’s more energetic “Saturday Saints.” And of course, the combination of both vocalists is simply on another level. The octaves and harmonies of “Invincible Hero” are both interesting and excellent, and when everything comes together perfectly, like on “Pink Valhalla,” the results are staggering.

After a ten year hiatus, it’s impressive that Versus has put out an album at all. That it’s an album as good as On the Ones and Threes is excellent. On the Ones and Threes shows the band in top form – as creative as ever, with the extra development of ideas and skill that gap has allowed. All in all, Versus has created an outstanding album, combining a number of well-crafted elements into a masterfully built whole.

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