Collections Of Colonies Of Bees is commonly referred to as a post-rock outfit, but on Giving, the Milwaukee instrumental six-piece sure sounds an awful lot like a rock band. While 2008’s Birds emphasized contemplative melodic meanderings that unfolded over four intricately plotted-out and purposeful movements, Giving draws on the power that CoCoBees conjures live. The group’s telepathic communication as a close-knit ensemble turns it into a solitary instrument on Giving, like fingers closing into a fist.
Where Giving feels like a jet blasting through four songs spread out over 28 minutes, the engine is unquestionably Jon Mueller, the virtuoso drummer (who’s since departed for a solo career) anchoring CoCoBees with dozens of subtle yet spectacular rhythmic flourishes that recall a more modest Bill Bruford. Mueller counts off a pounding beat at the heart of “Vorm,” but he’s even better when he hangs back on “Lawns,” allowing the guitars of Chris Rosenau and Daniel Spack to poke and prod at each other while the pulse of Matthew Skemp’s bass holds them together.
Giving’s gut-level directness is a new breakthrough for CoCoBees, though the group hasn’t abandoned its more cerebral side, with Jim Schoenecker and Thomas Wincek (who’s also left to focus on his fine band All Tiny Creatures) providing piano and electronic accents that only begin to reveal themselves after several listens. But the head, for once, never gets in the way of the body on Giving. Unlike Unmap, the not wholly successful 2009 collaboration with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon that CoCoBees recorded under the name Volcano Choir, Giving aggressively stakes out its territory, never wasting a moment—or a percolating bubble of sound—as it barrels thrillingly forward.