I’m pretty much the only person in the world who never discovered the genius of this band’s much lauded “Focus” album and while I quite liked their 2008 comeback effort “Traced In Air,” I can’t really confess to having listened to it much since its initial release. It was thus with trepidation that I approached “Re-Traced,” my scepticism owing much not only to my ambivalence towards their earlier material but also due to the fact that this EP is essentially one of those “re-imagination/re-interpretation” affairs, with the band offering us four “re-traced” versions of their ’08 batch of songs and one new track.
Rating this EP is a pretty redundant exercise since most CYNIC fanatics will snap it up anyway, and hey, with only one new track it is pretty hard to evaluate which musical route the band might take on a future album. Simply put: this release is largely unnecessary.
It’s actually pretty easy to “deconstruct” this EP – you get a space-y song, a semi-acoustic one, a garage-rock one, one totally forgettable one, and the new song (which, sadly, is also forgettable). The songs remain mostly faithful to their original incarnations in terms of structure/arrangement, with the band merely tweaking the melodies, pace, and overall ‘texturing’ here and there. The changes are thus piecemeal at best, but I managed to sit through “Re-Traced” without exercising my gag reflex. “Space” kicks off with a brief but hyper-annoying 8-bit/videogame intro before switching into a much more laid-back space rock flow that is listenable but they keep at it for too long and it soon starts to drag. “Evolutionary” is the best on offer here (its original version – “Evolutionary Sleeper” – was also the best track on “Traced...”, IMO), with the band keeping it simple and relaxed. It’s soothing and I really like the acoustic touches. “King” is the wild card on here – it’s original version (“The King Of Those Who Know”) was melodic and dreamy, but this version is scraggier and rougher around the edges, with the band scuttling psychedelia in favour of a much raunchier garage rock approach. It sounds cool but ultimately it’s nothing special. “Integral” is a throwaway track (had to listen to it twice in a row and nothing grabbed me), while the new song, “Wheels Within Wheels” is another one of their easy listening efforts, very laid-back but neither too proggy nor too interesting. These last two songs basically have ‘B-side’ written all over them. So there you go: one OK song, one great song, and two poor songs. I didn’t enjoy this EP very much but seeing as how it’s essentially a stop-gap effort intended to tide over fans until the next album drops it is best advised not to read too much into it’s innately nondescript nature
(Online December 9, 2010)