Record Review - 3 March 26 2003

At best, Chicago's Seam excelled at forging a churning, mellifluous, meandering sound that alternated between moments of great majesty and those of low, somber intensity. Guitarist Sooyoung Park triggered interlocking cascades of guitar that swept through the numbers like a summer mountain flood, winding through melodic gullies and instrumental cul-de-sacs, forming momentary eddies, then gliding through shimmering pastoral set pieces. But on 1998's Pace Is Glacial, Seam's attempts at a more song-oriented approach only highlighted Park's sub-par singing, and the album failed to match the compositional creativity of previous work.

Perhaps recognizing this artistic nadir, Seam called it quits, and in the intervening five years, Park's made nary a peep. He returns to action on For 100 We Try Harder as the lead guitarist of the San Fran four-piece Ee, and his ax work picks up the thread of his earlier Seam albums, keying a sound and approach that echoes that band's affecting oeuvre.

While Park's distinctive playing makes comparisons to Seam inevitable, Ee benefits greatly from the singing of Tobin Mori, whose clear, ringing vocals counterpoint the swooning washes of guitar. Songs slowly build and gain momentum, tumbling forward like some eventuality propelled through noisy passages and soft, simmering lulls.

It's a hard duality to maintain for an entire album, and at times, the songs — most of which clock in at over five minutes — trail on past the point of positive returns. But that hardly diminishes the power of "Thomas Sleeps Beneath an El Paso Tree" and the atypically pop masterstroke "Beijing."