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Far afield of rock conventions

Rock band Hume, featuring, clockwise from top left, Britton Powell, Joey Doubek, Peter Tran and Wilson Kemp, doesn't follow typical verse/chorus construction on its new release.
Rock band Hume, featuring, clockwise from top left, Britton Powell, Joey Doubek, Peter Tran and Wilson Kemp, doesn't follow typical verse/chorus construction on its new release.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

HUME "Penumbra"

Kindred spirits: King Crimson, Built to Spill, Pink Floyd

Show: With Skeletons, Buildings and Laughing Man on Saturday at the Black Cat. Show starts at 9 p.m. 202-667-7960. www.blackcatdc.com. $12.

The first minute of "Golden Hour," which opens Hume's new album, "Penumbra," illustrates the D.C. quartet's penchant for cosmic drones (think Pink Floyd) and fidgety, hammered guitar patterns (think King Crimson). But the composition still has nine more minutes to run, and the band has a lot more influences to reveal. Yes, Hume is grounded in 1970s prog-rock, but it's not restricted by that.

The album divides 45 minutes of music among only five tracks, which can't exactly be called songs. Even the shortest number, "Grip," sidesteps a conventional verse/chorus structure. But frontman Britton Powell has the sort of sweetly yearning tenor that is well suited to power-pop, and he's clearly familiar with the genre. Instrumentally, "Injera" is spacey blues, but its vocal passages feature dreamy falsetto that evokes '70s cult pop-rocker Chris Bell, founder of Big Star.

Other contemporary bands, notably Built to Spill, also alternate succinct pop moments with sustained instrumental excursions. Yet Built to Spill is fundamentally a rock band, complete with resident guitar hero. Hume has more of an ensemble sound, and its jazz and baroque Afrobeat elements indicate that the group is headed further into the great beyond. On "Penumbra," it sails much of the way there.

- Mark Jenkins


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