C3’s debut EP “The Unanswered Question” greets the listener with the song “Credo,” which begins by sampling a monologue by American composer Leonard Bernstein that was drawn from a Harvard lecture series also titled “The Unanswered Question.” The band includes Steinhardt freshmen Kyle Brenn on percussion, Rohan Chander on piano and keyboard, Dani Strigi on bass, Zachary Voelbel on keyboard, Paul Hutchings on trumpet, David Mayers on guitar and CAS freshman Shyam Natarajan on tenor saxophone.
As Bernstein proclaims that “a great new era of eclecticism is at hand,” bombastic percussion and warm piano chords simultaneously envelop his voice with a dramatic delivery that matches his ambitious claims. As his voice fades, instruments of all kinds enter the fray. Bass lines and terse piano riffs underlay a growing tension. The saxophone glides effortlessly over the track’s building sense of urgency. The melody constantly morphs and cascades into itself as the percussion crashes and builds throughout.
The second track, “Bondy,” is alive with smooth and synthetic keyboards. As the guitar plucks away with confidence, the horns echo back with memorable vivacity. The following track, “Fleaker,” starts off with wandering piano musings that verge on classical balladry, only to be embraced by the band’s signature grooving instruments. As always, the melodies and motifs are driving and relentless, stopping briefly in the middle of the song and establishing a moody vibe. The change in emotion is complimented by unsettling saw-tooth synths that battle the acoustic instrumentation for dominance. The resulting tension and competitive expression between instruments never fails to excite, and serves as a major driving factor not only for “Fleaker,” but for the EP as a whole.
Next up is “Keys,” where rapper and Tisch freshman Ani drops a rapid-fire series of introspective and politically charged lyrics over powerful jazz riffs. The result is a vivid fusion of Snarky Puppy and Kendrick Lamar’s iconic “To Pimp a Butterfly,” all while maintaining the group’s originality. Ani is poignant and ruthless, declaring that if “you want the keys to the Audi / you take em’ bro, they murder kids here.”
The final track, “Slanza,” their debut single, is a highly engaging listen. While the vibe of the track sounds different from the newer compositions on the EP, it still serves as a triumphant ending note for an extremely successful debut effort.
C3’s “The Unanswered Question” exudes the kind of musical gusto that some bands take several full-length albums to achieve. It is a merger of both style and substance, a fusion of instrumental showmanship grounded in emotional fervor. The mastering on this project is stunning and does a great job of honoring the deft instrumentation that propels the project.
On “The Unanswered Question,” every musician holds his own, making for an extremely consistent listen from start to finish. C3 excels at creating a dynamic build and release of energy throughout its compositions. The group’s music is a curated journey of expertly timed emotional peaks and troughs that never bore. In a testament to their diverse set of musical interests and talents, the host of NYU-based musicians have created an EP that exists in a realm beyond the traditional definitions of genre.
You can find “The Unanswered Question” on Soundcloud..
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 1 print edition.
Email Connor Gatesman at [email protected]