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album review: liminal

Just a year after releasing their first single, Chase Petra has launched their debut album, Liminal, claiming their rightful place in the new alternative scene of Los Angeles. Hailing from Long Beach, they depart from music that has previously been successful out of the city, that is, reggae and rap. They have quoted their biggest influences for the band as Drake Bell, Avril Lavigne, Warpaint, Fleetwood Mac, as well as growing local bands in their scene.

Chase Petra was initially formed by Hunter Allen (guitar, vocals) and Evan Schaid (drummer) out of the desire to produce emotionally honest and expressive music. The project was later rounded out by the addition of Brooke Dickson (bass, vocals). The name, “Chase Petra,” sets forth this mission by pursuing the characteristics of Orson Scott Card’s complex heroine, Petra from the novel Ender’s Game. The album essentially explores this complexity of character that young adults often discover while coming of age.

Introducing the conflict of growing up is the “Prologue” of this conceptual album. The track takes an introspective path to discussing the looming fears of the future that most of the youth experience after leaving school. The certainty of the thoughts and fears of “going nowhere” are conveyed exceedingly well in the chugging of the acoustic guitar, building an anxious anticipation of what the future truly holds. As the literal prologue of the album, the song appropriately sets the pace and plot for the rest of the record. The following song, “Contractual,” further travels down the hole of existential dread as it explores the realities of having to accept the inevitability of becoming an adult in a world that makes the transition harder than it needs to be. The song talks about having to deal with unfamiliar things, those aspects of life no one is prepared for as a kid. There is no choice in dealing with the realities of growing up, it comes with the contract of life, hence the title.

The concept of waiting for more to come out of adulthood other than the hardships is carried throughout “Standby” and “See You Next Tuesday,” a track that touches on the scariest parts of being a woman stuck in a society that has decided nothing will ever be good enough. The song expresses the restraints presented to the narrator by aspects of modern culture as simple as labels or stereotypes. The chant of “we will never be free” is a rallying cry for minorities. “Law of Physics” is an honest questioning of whether one is meant for more or if we’re all stuck becoming victims of the society. “Quicksand” entertains the idea of what needs to happen if the latter succeeds and it leads the listener into the action of “In an Emergency Such as the End of the World.” On this track, Dickson joins Allen on lead vocals, increasing the urgency of the song with the rapid switches and intensity of harmonies.

“Monet Issues” stands out as the track that combines all the themes and emotions of the album into one conglomeration of the overall concept. It naturally flows together with each of the tracks both musically and thematically. Due to this, it’s interesting to note that the band wrote this song as they recorded it, which may be the reason why it seems to fall so perfectly into place in the middle of the album. The sensual musicality of the end of song leads perfectly into the jazz funk of “Sexy Song” – a track that breaks up the pace of the album and gives the band a chance to show their fun side amongst the angsty maturity of the rest of Liminal.

“Kind of, Maybe” brings the album back around in this realm of the undetermined future. The ethereal atmosphere established by the harmonic vocals and haunting guitar help to retain that initial concept of impending existentialism. The album wraps itself up in the honest and accepting track “Temporary,” one that leaps out of denial and begins to tolerate an undetermined future and that everything is temporary in the long run, no matter how mad it drives someone to think about. The final fading-out of the string ensemble drives home the purpose of the band to speak their truth about the confusion and frustration that comes from growing up.

Allen’s wailing vocals and the complexity of instruments involved in the production of the record make it the perfect microcosm of coming-of-age albums. It’s angsty, it’s fun and it’s honest in its representation of this phase in life. They just wrapped up a tour with SoCal natives, The Sweats, where they proved the album’s playability live – so make sure to keep up with their touring schedule and catch them playing around SoCal.

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