Dove Lady

REVIEW: Dove Lady - F

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Phillipe Roberts

Tossing out one last release only hours before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, Dove Lady slide into home plate with three records under their belts for 2017. For most acts, a breakneck pace like that would suggest a “golden year” burst of creativity, a flash-in-the-pan outlier. But with 20 EPs to go in their crusade to drop one for each letter of the alphabet, Dove Lady seem to be revving up, trying to take the rest of their marathon at full steam. Even if they maintain that three-a-year pace and drop any detours like last year’s numerical swerve One, the DC duo are looking at at least 6 more years of charging towards that finish line.

But the thrill of the band’s evolution, the thumping, oxygen-flooded heart of those heady ambitions, comes down to pure mystery: what kind of band will Dove Lady be at the end of all this? Song by song, Andrew Thawley and Jeremy Ray are engaged in a game of musical pointillism, brushing a few new dots onto a canvas that, as of EP F, we’re still seeing up close. Years from now, when we stand back at the close of EP Z, what sort of cohesive image will (or could) emerge from the expanding cacophony of genres spilling out of these two?

And yet, like all of their previous works thus far, F is an album obsessed with moments, cohesion be damned. Dove Lady sinks their teeth into melodies with a uniquely rabid dedication to impulsive leaps in songwriting logic. No idea is safe or sacred. No song too pretty or catchy to escape a little bit of mutilation. At its furthest extreme, this philosophy coughs up a real head-turner on “Education Soul Connection.” Chopped up, spidery funk-rock riffing rides down the scales into a blend of gooey, yearning psych-rock reminiscent of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, before growing a pair of legs and hoofing it off into oblivion with a passage that pairs a Cash-style western drum shuffle with an explosively jagged math-rock lead guitar line. By the time the dust settles in your ears, you’re halfway through noise anthem “Volleyball, Volleyball Star Captain,” shaking it to a sweaty, palm-muted riff and the titular chant for the cartoon superhero you never knew you needed.

For all the muscular shredding and complex time signature noodling to be had on F, the EP is not without its quieter, more meditative moments. Opener “You Are All My People” is their most convincing attempt at lo-fi ambience so far. Looped piano, field recordings, and scrapped, Gamelan-style guitars squash, bend, and reverse into an immersive digitized swamp, saturated with humid texture à la Deerhunter. And the back half of “Let It Shine,” where the band quickly trades in the more anthemic opening for a slinky doo-wop waltz, soothes even as it theorizes that “acceptance is a sore thing.”

But on that slippery final track, “Occupation,” Dove Lady gel into their finest moment, peppering spoken-word monologuing about the wave of nationalist fear-mongering spreading across the country over synth chops and a diseased-sounding, moaning chorus, mocking the new-wave schmaltz of U2’s “With Or Without You” with both a wry grin and a heavy heart. It’s pop gone awry for a country lost at sea. Dove Lady are leading us somewhere, the map held tightly to their chests. Breadcrumb by breadcrumb, dot by dot, they challenge us to enjoy the pit stops, to see one color at a time. And so far, it’s working.

REVIEW: Dove Lady - E

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Phillipe Roberts

Pause any song on Dove Lady’s excellent new EP E, fast forward 30 seconds or so, and try to guess where you’ll end up. Press play and listen for the sound of your expectations shattering. Five releases into a 26-EP project, Dove Lady only seem further away from solidifying their sound, and even less inclined to drop an outline around the white-hot plasma of punk, noise, ambient, and prog fueling their remarkable chemistry.

Barring the closing noise improvisation of “Eye Against Eye,” each song on E is a breathless sprint across genres. Opener “DZ Theme” comes slithering in on a mournful reversed guitar loop, grows a skeleton to the tune of martial drum triplets, and promptly implodes into fuzz-fried punk ferocity. Dove Lady have the attention span of the “SCAN” function on your radio. Songs unfold like a series of brief, dramatic love affairs. They might swoon over delicate, folky falsetto at the beginning of “Slapback,” but they’ll leave you in the lurch if you catch feelings while they flirt with hip-hop breakbeats and a smooth, surf-inspired interlude, only to leave the scene with a titanic, crashing alt-rock outro.

Given how recklessly catchy they remain throughout, it’s hard not to get attached to any one of these sections. Each suggests a track that would be tremendous on its own; as far as I’m concerned, the spectral R&B groove on “Can’t Be Sad” could go on forever. However, the beauty of E is that it constantly works to subvert that false sense of security while keeping you thoroughly entertained. If you love the chase, open your heart and give it a spin.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Dove Lady - Ferbalicious

Phillipe Roberts

Jeremy Ray and Andrew Thawley, the duo at the helm of D.C. sensation Dove Lady, cruise through their twisted prog pop tunes with a miraculous ease for such a limitless, genre-snapping hysteria. Just flip through One, their latest release and the first to break away from their 26 EP game plan (one for each letter of the alphabet), and you’ll find screeching math rock riffery, beachy anthems, and charming instrumentals, all impeccably timed and compacted into one seriously heady trip of an EP.

And yet, gliding in at the tail end of the record, the free and fierce grooves of “Ferbalicious” still manage to take a running jump at you. With soothing waves of ambience crashing around a muscular, tightly wound breakbeat, the duo rockets into a krautrock dance number with a satisfying crunch that echoes vintage indie radicals Stereolab.

In the accompanying video, their left-field style is given quite a literal visual treatment from the get-go as Ray’s face swims superimposed in front of Thawley. We see Ray slumbering upstairs, his head wrapped in a crown of pulsating Christmas lights, until Thawley joins him, coiling himself in the wires and falling into a Matrix-like dream state where the two meditate in a field. Cut back-to-back with footage of the two, glittering with silver face paint and pounding out the grooves in a small room, it’s an appropriately mind boggling but lovely metaphor for the symbiotic relationship at the soul of their music.

REVIEW: Dove Lady - One

Laura Kerry

I remember the surprise I felt when I first learned that Washington, DC has a history of fostering an influential punk and hardcore scene. To me, the nation’s capital meant pristine monuments and the respectable act of governance (ha). It was thrilling to learn that under all that marble, people had been airing their feelings and making noise.

Andrew Thawley and Jeremy Ray live in DC, and their band, Dove Lady, shows signs of the post-hardcore scene from which it sprung. Their latest album, One—the first full-length after a series of alphabetized EPs, A, B, C, and D—begins with an explosive oscillation of fuzzy guitar. Drums come in, crashing wildly, and the vocals emerge as a monotone yelp. The start of the opener, “7777,” promises to deliver on the DC legacy. Soon, though, Dove Lady pulls back. “7777” morphs several times, changing from the harsh pulse of punk guitar to smoother, quieter modes and back again.

Punk is only one edge of Dove Lady’s experimental territory on One. Throughout the album, they transition from post-hardcore to jazz, and even to a moment of R&B smoothness on “Carl Salesman.” And when they do get loud, the duo never fully loses control. Rhythmic and tight all the way through, they only skirt the edges of chaos before dissolving into calm—a move that's as exciting as total mayhem. Dove Lady are masters of tension and release.

Such mood swings happen not only in the sound, but also in the lyrics. “In essence,” Dove Lady said in an interview with GoldFlakePaint, “One is about accepting and forgiving one’s self for all of life’s mistakes; it is a sonic representation of moving on from the past and into the present.” Naturally, that is a fraught process. The album reflects that in moments of anxiety: “I'm scared of the way that you might look at me If you hear what I’m thinking / I’m tired of uncertainty,” they sing on “What’s Wrong Roberta,” and “Sometimes I get so lonely and I don’t know” on “Carl Salesman.” For all of its musical trickery, One’s sentiments are delightfully earnest.

And Dove Lady is never more delightful and earnest than in the moments of catharsis that lend the album a feeling of simultaneous gravity and lightness. “It’s time / Won’t be long / ‘Til I’m comfortable,” they sing over a catchy guitar melody in the appropriately named “Uplifting Song.” At the end, the track reaches a satisfying release with the line, “It’ll all be ok.” And just as One begins with the roar of guitar, it ends with another loud statement. “Anything that I want / I can get if I try,” they sing on the closing track, “Boar Switch,” before the instruments and vocals swell, coming closer to spilling over into chaos than anywhere else on the album.

A product of their city but with a strong sense of their own sound, Dove Lady makes music how they want to.