It starts with some noodling and a cough, followed by some shouted instructions from a far off voice. The band begins the plaintive “Sidelights.” This is Sand and Lines, the latest Venice is Sinking album, and possibly their best so far. The group specializes in the bitter-sweet sounds of heart break and the circumstances surrounding this particular record are too powerful to be placed aside.
Fair warning: the spectre of the Georgia Theatre looms as large as its marquee over the record. Though Venice recorded Sand before the fire, you can practically see the smoldering remains and smell the charred ashes as the songs play out. What’s unique about this effort is how it was recorded. The band set up in the Theatre for a week about two years ago and recorded live using only two microphones. They also opted to keep in all the flaws. For any other band, this might prove a death blow. For Venice, it’s more of a trust exercise. Let the listeners hear!
It’s a risk, for sure. Some of the songs could really benefit from being a bit more polished. “Falls City” comes to mind with its far away vocals and heavy beat. I’m hoping for another version as a single (please?!) But in giving us a taste of live mixing (or lack thereof), Venice proves they have the ability to show off this material in concert. Sure, a bum note or missed beat can be heard if you listen close enough but that’s not really the point.
Take “Bardstown Road.” A simple melody, enhanced by the sing-along chanting at the end. Just imagining the band finishing off a show at the Watt with everyone singing that line over and over gives me chills. I wouldn’t want to hear it done any other way. Another one of the things Venice always does well is covers. Sand and Lines is no exception, boasting the catchy and cathartic “Tugboat” near the start. I would’ve sworn it was an original composition. Some things just fit.
Venice and the Theatre fit. They fit so well that Venice is Sinking is donating all the money they make from the record back to the Theatre. But I do have to wonder, if the Theatre hadn’t burned down, would Sand and Lines have to be looked at differently? Obvious answer is Yes. But that doesn’t mean that the record is any less impressive. It’s one thing to play an instrument, another to play your recording area as one. And it’s a whole different world working with live recordings.
With Sand and Lines, Venice is Sinking proves that sometimes perfection isn’t about being perfect. It’s all life’s imperfections that make it interesting. Nine out of ten. Well done guys.