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Ben Davis, who's made it through many emo punk-type groups over the years, including most notably Sleepytime Trio and Milemarker, has recently become quite adept at getting his friends to help him flesh out his own songs, in not so much a complete band format, but in groups that differ with each cut. He did it with his introspective "Hushed Patterns of Relief," and it works well on this new one. With an all-star cast of folks from Triangle bands (Herein are members of Fin Fang Foom, Jett Rink, Poncho Holly, and The Comas, and more) as well as old bandmates of Davis' in the Virginia post-punk contingency (like Engine Down), there is a great variety here from song to song, with stylistic changes (piano-based ballads to guitar punk anthems). The players assembled show dexterity with each turn. "Time a Bind" has some real bite to it, and "Green Registry" builds slowly, then opens wide, as Davis shares vocals with Des Ark's Aimee Argote on both to wondrous effect. Cuts like opener "Departure Warning" set the tone for the record, with breathy singing by Davis as piano plunks create a somber tone. Much of the lyrical material is pensive self-examination, which can be a heavy load to carry off. There are adrenaline shots in the arm, too, as on "Underdawg," which jumps from left to right channel in the intro, then stabs forward while raspy vocals keep the listener locked. "Forced Escape Canoe" has handclaps that give a loose feel, as some playful Moog keyboard lines cap off a quirky, spastic mode that works. Cheers to musicians showing their ability to shed skins, try new things and all that.

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