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Cursive unleashes a symphony of sounds Indie rock band returns for sold-out show to promote new album "I Am Gemini"

Just off Washington Street Friday night, opposing forces were doing battle. Yes, on the ice between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins but also in the mythical realm.

Indie rock band Cursive returned to a sold-out Mohawk Place with its February release "I Am Gemini" and astrology followers will know the basic premise.

Twin brothers Cassius and Pollock feud in the Omaha, Neb., band's seventh album -- a sprawling rock opera inspired by the Greek myth of Castor and Pollux. The album's seesaw, good-versus-evil archetype is a natural result of frontman Tim Kasher's visceral tendencies.

The five-piece band opened its set with the album's lead track "This House Alive." Friday's set list was heavy on material from the new album, and its individual tracks stand on their own. But the concept is best understood through a good pair of stereo headphones rather than from start to finish in a live setting and the band accepts that.

So for its next song the band turned to what is arguably its breakthrough -- 2003's brilliant "The Ugly Organ." One of its most interesting songs, "A Gentleman Caller," was framed by the concurrently dissonant and melodic notes that have become the band's signature sound. It had the capacity crowd shouting along to lines such as "The worst is over."

That ability to project a barrage of harsh syncopation and drastic tempo shifts without alienating listeners has been the band's calling card since its inception in the mid-1990s. Even after the departure of its cellist in 2005, the band has maintained this symphonic approach.

Kasher, bassist Matt Maginn and guitarist Ted Stevens, with Patrick Newbery on keys (and the odd trumpet line) and drummer Cully Symington were brisk and vigorously offbeat on what followed, including "The Cat and Mouse," "Retreat!" and "The Sun and Moon."

Finally, after about the eighth song, the road-tested Kasher bantered for a bit with the sweltering audience though he wasn't phased by the stuffiness.

"I've done hotter, sir," he said to someone in the crowd.

As a collective dressed casually in their button-down shirts, they look like IT guys for a start-up company by day. Friday's set showed they're masters of drawing from the 1970s progressive rock of King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Wire. But maybe their influences don't stop there.

As Cursive wound down its more-than hourlong set with "The Recluse" and "From the Hips," I wondered if they were students of experimental composer John Cage and other sound artists whose work is part of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's new exhibit "Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo avant-garde in the 1970s."

Indeed, Cursive fans (many of whom weren't even born then) would do well to check out that show for its exploration of this city's decade-long alternative art scene. There's some convergence there.

Omaha compatriots Conduits and a young band called Cymbals Eat Guitars out of New York City opened the show with the latter's 1990s noise pop sending everyone into a pre-Cursive tizzy.

See Cursive live if you're at all on the fence about all this. It played the same venue almost exactly two years ago and it'll no doubt play it again.

Like some of the best art, this band is an enigma.

email: jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com

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Cursive

Friday night in Mohawk Place, 47 E. Mohawk St.