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South San Gabriel: Rock With Room To Breathe

South San Gabriel is widely considered a side project of the roots-rock band Centro-Matic — even its members seem to think so. But, unlike many side projects, South San Gabriel features every member of the group that spawned it, as well as two additional players. For the most part, what separates the two bands is the creative breathing room inherent to side projects.

While Centro-Matic's members craft superb rock records, not much has changed for their sound in the past 10 years, while South San Gabriel evolves constantly. The two bands each record half of the new split-release Dual Hawks, and if South San Gabriel's "The Arc and the Cusp" had been produced with only singer Will Johnson's vocal and guitar, it could have easily wound up on the Centro-Matic side. Fortunately, though, it's produced with a stunning mix of live and synthesized orchestration, backwards tape loops and drum machines. It's a sonic feast that takes multiple listens to digest; along the way, it provides a compelling blueprint that Centro-Matic ought to consider following.

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Andy Young