This past February, I had the extreme pleasure of catching The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (TWIABP) live at Toad’s Place in New Haven. The gig was truly one of the most unique performances I’ve ever seen – songs swelled and arose out of textured interludes, accompanied by the spoken word poetry of Connecticut native Chris Zizzamia. The poetry added a fresh layer of substance to familiar songs off TWIABP’s 2013 album “Whenever, If Ever. Guitarist Derrick Shanholtzer-Dvorak announced their official collaboration with Zizzamia, quickly adding that “You’re not going to like it.” Eight months later, we can finally hear the fruits of their collaboration in the form of the new EP “Between Bodies.”
The focal point of the release is obviously Zizzamia’s poetry. Even though he writes in free verse, his musings fit comfortably between vocal melodies or on top of instrumental passages. The sharp, atonal words are framed in several different contexts, ranging from the atmospheric, subtle ambience of “Precipice” to the straightforward, driven rock of “If And When I Die.” Zizzamia’s voice is definitely at the helm. It is more abrasive than soothing, appropriate for his overarching themes of conquering fear and death, as well as discovering humanity’s place in the universe.
Other highlights include “Space Explorations To Solve Earthly Crises” and “Thanks,” the latter acting as brief thank you for the rabid support of their fans. All of the classic TWIABP elements are present, everything from poppy synthesizers, smatterings of trumpet and cello and the gradual crescendos of post-rock. Unfortunately, the diverse arrangements are not as fleshed out or deeply explored as they were on “Whenever, if Ever.” At certain points, it feels as if the poetry smothers the potential for a seamless, flowing record. Many fans are finding themselves agreeing with Shanholtzer-Dvorak’s previous comment “You’re not going to like it.”
Yet, “Between Bodies” should not be viewed as the be-all and end-all of TWIABP’s music. This is a band that loves to constantly push the boundaries of their comfort zone. They are often labeled as an experimental group and this release is arguably their most ambitious experiment to date. Others have brushed off “Between Bodies” as being too pretentious, but hasn’t TWIABP always been an incredibly pretentious band? That’s what makes them the frontrunner in the modern “emo-revival” scene, blazing a trail that many other groups are attempting to follow. This EP provides listeners with something eclectic yet memorable, hopefully to hold them over until their next landmark release.
TWIABP is about to embark on a North American tour with The Hotelier (another phenomenal band), Rozwell Kid and Posture & The Grizzly. If you’re looking for an intense, intimate show, check out their music and see them at The Space in Hamden, Conn. on Oct. 25. I’m currently counting down the days to what will surely be another unforgettable experience with The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die.