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April 22, 2003

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For the follow up to 2001's widely-touted "Goldenwest" and a move to Jade Tree, Ester Drang's founding frontman Bryce Chambers has initiated a new lineup, but his group's lush and experimental approach to indie rock remains unchanged. Home state legends the Flaming Lips continue to have some influence the Tulsa, Okla.-bred Drang, but "Infinite Keys" finds Chambers, bassist Kyle Winner, guitarist Jeff Shoop, and drummer/pianist James McAlister pumping vibrant new life into a shoegazer sound left for dead a decade ago.

The dreamy, skilled sound collage of strings and guitars found on "The Temple Mount" creates the mood of the set, easing into the intricate, jazzy pop of "Dead Man's Point of View." Chambers' vocals -- often resembling the range of Radiohead's Thom Yorke -- sound ideal on "Oceans of You," where a spacey sadness gives way to a guitar rock attack akin to the bulk of "The Bends."

Glistening 4AD bands like the Pale Saints and the Cocteau Twins come to mind as the lilting "One Hundred Times" plays out, soon giving way to the lovely and heartfelt pop of "The Greatest Thing." Although the piano touches accenting "No One Could Ever Take Your Face" are distinct, it's a sluggish exercise among the eight other high caliber tunes here.

"I Don't Want To Live (In a World of Infinite Keys)" is as desperate as it is intricate, even boasting a flute solo. Buried treasures like the uplifting, McCartney-influenced "If They Only Knew" and the brilliant "All the Feeling" -- complete with dueling xylophone and piano -- assure that Ester Drang is much more than a mere shoegazer revival outfit.


John D. Luerssen