South w/Metric

Tues Jan 27, Chop Suey, 9 pm, $11 adv.

Believe it or not, the following complicated music-industry scenario, based on an actual situation, is fortuitous--and hopefully, a colorful example of the old cliché "All's well that ends well." Imagine that due to label wrangling at your home in the UK, your September 2003 sophomore album (With the Tides), which is vastly different in style from your 2001 debut (From Here on In), is being first released in the U.S., with a North American tour to back it up scheduled to begin immediately. (This after your debut was released in the U.S. more than a year after it hit the shelves in the UK.) Just before you take to the skies in October, though, your drummer breaks his wrist, postponing the tour until after With the Tides has been out in America for a good three months--an album that still hasn't been released at home and won't be for another two months, but you hope the video you've just completed will serve as a thrilling preview for what is to come. Until then, you're off to the U.S. (then right after that, Japan), and your first stop is Seattle. And, if you're South's optimistic frontman, Joel Cadbury, you couldn't be more excited at the notion that what should have happened systematically over the course of six months has turned into an absolute landslide of events.

"It's quite exciting that everything's been thrown at us at once," says the singer and guitarist from his home in London, but with a note of cautious superstition in his voice. "I don't want to get too ahead of myself, because last time I was this excited my drummer broke a wrist, and here we are, ready to start over."

The past three months have not been squandered, however. In the downtime, South had the opportunity to write more songs and get a head start on the next album, and fans can anticipate another noticeable change in direction. Though he thinks bands like Sigur Rós are quite suited to maintain a signature sound, Cadbury believes a change in style for most bands is a sign of natural progression. South's first album, From Here on In, was often categorized as electronica, largely because UNKLE producer James Lavelle incorporated dance beats and keyboard moodiness into the band's dense, at times Stone Roses-esque, rock. With the Tides expands upon From Here on In's string arrangements and moves them to the forefront, but all semblance of traditional electronica is completely removed. The songs are as dark as ever, but the scope of Cadbury's soaring vocals, and the shimmer of acoustic guitar against driving electric, make for a big, bright, and dreamy sound. Harmonies layered over the stark-sounding keys of a Fender Rhodes infuse the album with a sense of space and elasticity not overtly evident on the band's debut.

Insisting it won't be a step backwards for the band, Cadbury explains that With the Tides revisits the looser aspects of From Here on In. "We do our best work when we're just jammin' together," he says, "and we'd love to be in a situation where we could record in a Scottish castle or something big and old like that and spend two weeks playing like a live band and get that feeling on tape."

Cadbury and his bandmates--guitarist Jamie McDonald and drummer Brett Shaw--have played together since they were 14 years old, and now, 11 years later, he says he can't imagine what it would be like not to have been one band all that time. Given their history, it's easy to believe that growth and progression just happen naturally for South, and the stylistic exploration evident on With the Tides' most diverse track, "Fragile Day"--a song that begins with an ethereal delicateness and builds skyward with surging strings, bell sounds, and tape loops before an isolated, raw guitar signals a brisk, but ultimately fleeting, shift in texture--is the hallmark of a kind of creative output that only a band whose members know each other as well as South's do could pull off. More than anything, South is family, and with family you can expect a broken wrist, or a missed trip to another country, and plenty of room to grow.

kathleen@thestranger.com

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