Distance Holds Your Mystery
Science Knows No Records
By: Eric Greenwood
Science Knows No Sin is a Columbia, South Carolina quartet that strews intricate melodies throughout its hazy, effects-laden rock. On its debut full-length, the band struggles with the threat of rock and roll versus a mannered and controlled atmosphere. The latter unfortunately wins out most of the time, but there is no question that the potential to rock is there, as the dueling guitars will attest. Susan Margolis is the dominant force amidst her band's cloudy presence. Her nasal voice has an endearing quality- one that cleverly balances affectation and quiet tension.
Jonathan Bradley's steady percussion keeps the music on track. He never over-plays. His rhythms are subtle yet they hold all the diverging elements firmly in place. The guitar interplay is another balancing act: one holds down the song structures with smart, staccato arpeggios while the other accents the harder parts, often flailing off into a wash of classic rock histrionics. The band makes no bones about Margolis' vocals being the center of attention, as they are pushed higher in the mix than anything else. This is only distracting when the mounting tension of the music outweighs the vocal line, which is rare. For the most part, her melodies carry the songs; they draw you in slowly and sink in deeply.
"Tidal Wave" glides along effortlessly- only slightly reminiscent of like-minded ethereal bands of the early 1990's (Pale Saints and Slowdive come to mind). The male backing vocals detract from Margolis' languid effect here, serving almost as a comical foil to her dreamy meandering. Their deadpan intonation reminds me of the conversational tone in the title track of Sonic Youth's "Goo." The rollicking climax at the end – a hornet’s nest of guitars – overshadows it all, though. "Leo" is eerily catchy. Margolis' ambiguous lyrics work against the girlish yearning in her voice, but the way the bass line follows the vocal in the chorus is lovely.
Those pesky back-up vocals can't quite muck up the otherwise steady rocker, "Circles." On "Kaleidoscope" Margolis is heavy on the affectation, invoking some sort of British accent, but it seems to work. She sounds both coy and distracted to the benefit of the song. Also, the band's latent rock and roll side shines here. "Kimchee" is sinister in its foray into more aggressive dynamic shifts. The instrumental incorporates understated keyboards and showcases the band's soft/loud guitar technique. "Backwards" is dissonant and longwinded with ill-advised guitar squawks that don't seem to fit the mood, but the controlled tension of "Capsule" more than makes up for it. Margolis finally pushes her voice here, and it's the album's finest moment.
Distance Holds Your Mystery is a confident and musical, if slightly retro, nod to esoteric rock. You can sense the rock and roll beast thundering at the band’s core, but it rarely rears its head. Still, Science Knows No Sin proves here that it is a force to be reckoned with not only in Columbia's slowly awakening independent music scene but also – almost certainly – on a national level.