Thumbing its nose at the macho, watered-down nature of alt-rock, the Six Parts Seven have taken up the role of brainy rebel rockers. The Kent quintet pens moody, free-form instrumentals that discard conventional structure and verse in pursuit of, well, music. The group excels at crafting brooding harmonies reminiscent of '70s art rock, but without the overindulgence. In fact, its members concentrate on not overplaying, expressing themselves with a kind of classical minimalism that intermingles ebow, lap steel, viola, drums, and guitar into aerial scores that feel like Ry Cooder retooled by Sigur Rós. Fronted by brothers Allen and Jay Karpinski, the group has released two previous LPs, In Lines and Patterns and Silence Magnifies Sound, both of which stand as superb experiments in melody.
Pushing the envelope even further, Things Shaped in Passing moves with the viscosity of syrup. Snail-paced concertos -- nine vignettes in all -- ebb and flow with lots of the same idiosyncrasies: pizzicato guitars, moaning lap steel, and random percussion. Properly fused, the band's instrumentation yields lonesome elegance ("Now Like Photographs") and amazing six-minute daydreams ("Sleeping Diagonally"), which swell from groggy guitars and grand piano into epics of lap steel and slide work.
Still, Things isn't as eclectic as the band's previous effort, and it has a tendency to wallow in its own repetition. Filler like "Spaces Between Days (Parts 3 & 4)" feels stripped of cohesion and almost purposefully obtuse. Thankfully, these moments are brief and sufferable in the group's continued exploration of sound and commercial disobedience.