There are some catchy drum parts on This Quiet. Excellently recorded and performed with verve, moments like the cymbal pings on the 3's in "Jaws of Life"'s chorus speak to the experience of the post-hardcore lifers who constitute the relatively new Markov. Fast and energetic music doesn't have to place its emphasis on melody to attract and hold the attention of listeners. But if rhythm is your driving principle, you have to pull out all the stops available. Literal stops -- the most effective live bands in this style, from the (early) Dismemberment Plan to Fugazi to Jawbox, knew how to use silence and spacing judiciously. If anything the nervous, hasty tunes on the ten-track mini-LP hit red lights a bit too often. There's so many pauses for effect that it's not always clear when a song has ended and the next one has begun.
On the plus side This Quiet's polished production does well to fill the songs with distinguishing details. Subliminal samples from TV news suit the agitated persona of the lead singer. Backing vocals pop up in unexpected places and in unforeseen forms; there's standard aggressive soccer-chorus hollering but you're just as likely to hear genuine harmony. Smart choices like the single-microphone sound of the drums at the beginning of "Girls and Eyes" make the album more fun to dig into than your standard self-released debut.
The meat and potatoes of This Quiet is in the interaction between the spitting, slashing guitars and the well-caffeinated drums. Together they find smart places to back off -- if only for a second -- and keep songs like "Debaters" more fresh than formula. It's not until halfway through that breathing room begins to emerge for the bass to do much more than keep up. The title track features sparely arranged verses where the guitar finally lays back a little and it's a welcome change. The other departures on the CD are less successful, but I appreciate the band's commitment to exploring broader vistas. "Futile," which features actual tuneful singing up until its very tail end, is more interesting than good. "Red Ocean"'s droning half-throttle sections and gargling basso vocals make you wish Markov would just get back to delivering the electric shocks.
As for the lyrical content, intelligent writing is sometimes undercut by gratuitous F-bombs... something that rather goes with the territory. When they go for a specific target, as in the self-explanatory "Divine Credit," Markov is at their most effective, the band's energy combining with the political thrust of the words. The vocals have fine variety in their delivery, although not every adopted voice works properly.
This Quiet is an example of a record that's made stronger by its weak tracks. As an introduction to the band, it presents musicians who aren't afraid to fail in the pursuit of originality. Markov's attempts to get out of lockstep and be themselves don't all work, but they cast the songs that do in a better light.