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Punch Brothers

The Wireless EP – 2015 (Nonesuch)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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Over the course of the past decade or so, Punch Brothers - Chris Thile, Gabe Witcher, Paul Kowert, Chris Eldridge and Noam Pikelny - emerged as one of the most innovative acoustic outfits of the modern era, thanks in no small part to its members' ability to improvise and interact with such remarkable finesse. Ostensibly a bluegrass band, their sound and style generally defies any attempt at typecasting, making them a crowd favorite in concert and a reliable commodity on record as well.

"The Wireless," a five-song EP released in time for the holidays, is likely something of a stopgap effort primed to excite the faithful prior to the release of their next LP. It serves its purpose to be sure, a series of intriguing interludes that spotlight every aspect of Punch Brother's varied approach. Opening track "In Wonder" is as dreamy as its title suggests, while the sprightly instrumental that follows, "The Hops of Guldenberg," hints at some fond remembrance of a German beer hall celebration. The vampish "Sleek White Baby" with its spoken broadcast interlude offers another example of the Brothers' derring do, and leads nicely into the pluck and ramble of the telling "No More. Yet" and the set's closing ballad "Clementine."

Punch Brothers' main hindrance seems to be the constant solo activity of each of its members, an element which inevitably makes full gatherings for recording purposes a matter of deliberate strategizing. Still, it's great to see the band making an ongoing attempt at creating new music, especially when it's as fruitful as "The Wireless."