Devotional

PREMIERE

Slow Dakota - Creation of the World

unnamed.jpg

By Abigail Clyne

Don’t let the joyful nature of the track fool you–Slow Dakota’s new single, “Creation of the World,” is asking the big questions. The title alone hints to this track being more than meets the eye. PJ Sauerteig (Slow Dakota) is joined by Margaux Bouchegnies on vocals and Corey Dansereau on trumpet. Throughout the song, the duo ponders where their urge for expression comes from. “I can’t decide if I write from some Great hole inside,” they sing, and compare their way of creation to that of Christ, “If Christ spoke Mountain Ice all because His Life was flat and dry.”

Later, the pair wonders if their inspiration perhaps comes from a more positive place, “Or do I sing from some Great abundance, bubbling high.” In the end, much like the different expressions of God shown in the Old and New Testaments, it seems a balance has been struck. Creation, and therefore expression, comes out of both desperation and love. The constant plucking of the guitar and later addition of the trumpet allows for this self analysis to never become dour. We all need a helping hand to guide us through the weighty questions, and Slow Dakota makes it both easy and profound all at once.

REVIEW: Syko Friend - Angel's Ride

syko.jpg

Phillipe Roberts

As Syko Friend, Sophie Weil’s soundscape poetry tends towards gritty, unpolished darkness. Past releases, including last year’s Fly Canyon, managed to let in a little light with shorter tracks that balanced out the cavernous depths of her more extended sonic workouts. On her latest release, Angel’s Ride, those glimmers of sunlight are blotted out, eclipsed by the revolving shadows that are her two lengthy, scorched-earth improvisations.

The menacing “Cherry Eyes” is the first of the two, building from a shimmering, drone-y introduction that seems to mimic buzzing bagpipes, into a churning, metallic slog; snippets of melody jut out like handholds for the listener to cling to as we stumble along through the night. It occasionally recalls fellow ambient mystic Grouper, but Weil’s music project is devoted less to eerie, gloomy musing. Wielding her fuzzbox like a knife, Syko Friend’s guitar work often calls to mind the bleak, Canadian post rock outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor in its moody, slightly Western twang.

“Rachel,” the second offering, takes the form of an extended ballad, riding distant, ghostly arpeggiations that allow Weil’s voice to move closer to center stage. Even still, the compounding echoes smooth out her articulations to the point of reducing them to waves of melody in a state of constant disintegration. Weil keeps the windows shuttered again, only allowing the faintest touch of sun—a warm bath of synthesizers—to bubble in at the very last second.

For those willing to submerge themselves in murkier waters, Angel’s Ride is a gentle float in a sensory deprivation tank. Suspended in total darkness, the vibrations humming around you are a soft massage for the senses.

REVIEW: Twain - Rare Feeling

Phillipe Roberts

Blessed with a honeyed voice that overpowers even the bitterest sorrows, twain singer Mt. Davidson probably gives one hell of pep talk. Rare Feeling, the latest offering from the alt-country outfit, gets under your skin with an unflinching optimism that, if it didn’t feel so hard-won or well intentioned, might come off as forced. But like a best friend poking at your ribs until you see the brighter side, or an angel on your shoulder pointing you towards the high road, Davidson and co. deliver a rambling, feel-good sermon of a record. As the seasons turn towards introspection, twain make a golden case for turning your heart outwards.

Tucked away in the middle of the record, the central thesis of Rare Feeling rings out like a glass-half-full plea for hope: “Life won’t last long / For those who hate it / For those who love it / It lingers on like a dream.” The song in question is “Freed From Doubt,” a rose-tinted reverie of a solitary smoke break given over to Zen-like brooding. It's the album’s shortest track but nevertheless serves as a kind of mission statement, pulling the overarching lyrical themes of gratitude and acceptance to the fore. Front to back, Davidson sings like a man reborn from the ashes, alternating between yearning for spiritual guidance (“Rare feeling / Visit me and set my mind at ease” on the title track) and celebrating the wondrous now (“Lay down with / The beauties of this earthly world / I think they want to lay down with you” on "Solar Pilgrim"). Combined with a voice that can smoothly shift gears from delicate cooing into commanding operatics on a dime, it's quite a potent formula.

As for arrangements, “Freed From Doubt” provides further illumination. A lovely guitar figure, reminiscent of the work of electronic folk maestro Bibio, plods along, knitting itself around Davidson’s charming melody like warm thread. Sparse but jaunty drums bumble around underneath, buoyed by a bass that snuggles up close to the guitars and doesn’t let go. The majority of the record takes a similar form. On "Black Chair," a piano occasionally creeps in to heighten the tense drama of romantic loss, while on “Good Old Friend (For Charlie)," flutes breeze by to serve the song’s majestic beauty, but overall, the band tends to hang back, happy to let Davidson lead the proceedings. When they leap out to the front on the slow-churning confessional “Rare Feelings v. 2,” the piled-on distortion achieves a stunning effect.  You can practically see the sweat dripping down Davidson’s face as the church walls melt down around him.

Wearing these gospel influences like a badge of honor, Rare Feeling finds its surest footing when submerged in the hymnal qualities that elevate its country blues to the level of soul-breaking catharsis. As the lights dim on the shuffling chant of “I’m never going down / Even if they all pass me by” on closer “Good Old Friend,” it seems like the track could and should go on forever. Davidson's voice dissipates into the ether but the chant snowballs into a defiant, angelic chorus. It's exactly the kind of moment of muted thunder that keeps you coming back for a shoulder to lean on.

TRACK REVIEW: TV Heads - Devotional

Kelly Kirwan

TV Heads have laid down their own credo, and to listen is a baptism in breathy, stacked vocals and the occasional jittery guitar line. It's punk rock diffused across a dark, dreamy landscape. The Los Angeles-based four-piece have said they live off a a steady diet of “post-punk riffs, raw vocals and electro textures,” and by adopting these elements they’ve created a new strain of sound—one that drudges up a certain deja vu of gritty rock n’ roll and surreal dips into neo-psychedelia. Their latest single, "Devotional," seems to splice together, or perhaps teeter between, those two styles. Stretching just over five minutes, the song feels like an odyssey, as spiraling guitar riffs build into static-trimmed crescendos with throbbing percussion. Rich notes splash across the melody like a vibrant hue of paint spattered across a gray canvas.

A feature of "Devotional" is repeated lyrics, which feel like a sly (and ever-so-slightly evolving) mantra. “Not gonna leave / You’re not gonna leave / You’re not gonna,” takes over the chorus as the song passes it’s halfway point, the words taking on a certain defiance. Angelica Tavella’s cadence adopts a slight warble as the guitars create a quick-footed and rippled line across the track. There’s a mounting tension, one that settles in your muscles and leaves you rigid until the frenzied release.

The curious allure of "Devotional" is how it can so swiftly offset the sandpaper touch of post-punk with a softer dream pop. It’s a song that swivels around these polar opposites, and never once loses its grip on our attention.

TRACK REVIEW: Pastel - I Ache

With a title like "I Ache," you could probably guess going in that Pastel's newest single is pretty thoroughly steeped in melodrama. It's an absolutely gorgeous melodrama, though, and one that is so convincingly sincere that it's easy to get sucked in.

This is the first track from Pastel's upcoming EP Bone-Weary, which is due out sometime early this year. It blends elements of R&B, dream pop, and ambient electronics that are irresistibly smooth, and when the vocals come in after about a minute and a half ("It's so hard to be stable / When the hold that I cling to is not") there's a bit of a retro-devotional, Twin Shadow-esque vibe.

"I Ache" is broken into three parts: an intro comprised mostly of soft synths and choral voices, a middle section that serves as something of a verse, and a finale that spends the last two minutes releasing a subtle—but nonetheless powerful—explosion of sound. It's a song that you can get lost in, replete with broad, painterly instrumental strokes and a sense of scope that seems greater than its runtime.

Needless to say, we're looking forward to this new EP.