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(photo by Daniel Muller)

Nebraskan indie rockers Cursive reenact Greek mythology in I Am Gemini

Omaha’s Cursive is one of those bands whose increased success does not eclipse their earlier years. They’ve exhibited a rare kind of finesse in navigating the overhyped mainstream limelight, staying true to their roots while maintaining a well defined and constantly evolving musical presence.

Their career trajectory is a relatively straight line, sharing the same starting point with fellow veteran Saddle Creek Records artists Bright Eyes and the Faint, all of whom had a part in creating the grassroots musical community in Omaha. Though they’ve been around and putting out music since the early 1990s, in many ways they’re still very much the same band they were when they played under the name Slowdown Virginia—still signed to their friends’ record label, still an important part of the Omaha scene, and still playing the same crunchy, raw, experimental rock and roll with just the slightest hint of twang.

It’s been a month since their most recent album was released—a somber and lyrically rich concept album titled I Am Gemini—and the first impression is that it’s a lot harsher than its catchy predecessor, Mama, I’m Swollen. And though it grandly defies most of the expectations listeners might have built up, vocalist and frontman Tim Kasher’s explanation is simple.

“We intended it to be a little heavier—for the simple reason that that’s just what we set out to do,” Kasher says. “We just decided, ‘Hey, let’s do another record and let’s have it be loud.’ We thought it should set the mood we were in.”

The sonic disarray in “This House Alive” and final cacophonous cadence of “Eulogy for No Name” don’t have that approachable appeal of the tracks from Mama, I’m Swollen or The Ugly Organ. This time Cursive pushes the limits much further with shadowy instrumentals and whispered vocals culminating in wailing soundwalls and raspy screams, all chopped up by brusque tempo shifts. It’s not at all uncharacteristic of Cursive to embrace a certain degree of controlled discordance, but the difference is that this time it’s been toned up—a lot. All of this makes much more sense, though, in context of the album’s lively storyline.

“It wasn’t initially intended to be a whole story but it kind of came to that,” Kasher explains. “I think that’s how a lot of our concept albums start out.”

The album’s mythological template (the album title refers to the Greek myth of Castor and Pollux, renamed Cassius and Pollock on the record) is the story of the two twin brothers separated at birth, only to war with one another over the course of 13 tracks. As a whole, I Am Gemini has a distinct literary finish, probing into weighty, dramatic themes like morality and the duality of being, and making references to the Greek Sisyphean myth and various stories in the Bible, as Kasher vociferously acts out a fratricide in “The Cat and Mouse.” All of this works well to complement the album’s darkly theatrical and surreal atmosphere, as well as its frantic aural lather.

I Am Gemini is the seventh record in Cursive’s career, and Kasher says the band is content to bask in its completion for a while.

“It’s all really new for us,” Kasher says. “We’re not looking very far ahead in the future than show tonight then show tomorrow. We’ll keep going from there.”

Cursive will perform at Mohawk Place with Cymbals Eat Guitars on Friday, March 30 at 7pm. $15.

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