(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, November 29, 2010

CD review - Valleys, Stoner (2010)

Band EPs often show a range of styles. The three songs on the Stoner EP by Valleys are each an amalgam of genres, but together they set a consistent tone. Despite some elements of post punk and indie rock, the main sound is a heady psycho-progressive rock. The clearest comparison would be And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, but that misses the contrasting calm moments that set up the catharsis.

The Cold Cold Skinny starts sparsely, with wind and deadened chimes. The verse comes in as a distant sort of post punk with ethereal vocals, a choppy rhythm drive, and some vague guitar fills. At the chorus, the music turns more progressive with fuzzed guitar riffing. The bridge builds on this prog sound, offering a faster, driving guitar riff and a thoughtful organ mixed underneath. All of this makes the first half of the song. From here, the song blooms into long melodic notes from a heavily compressed guitar and some glitchy underpinnings. It's a sudden relief of the first half's tension. With headphones and a darkened room, the whole effect is quite trippy.

Ordinary Dream (courtesy Pitchfork) sets up an indie pop groove: looped percussion and a pair of guitars with one playing a faster figure while a second entwines at about half the tempo. The vocals are dreamy and sweet. This makes the abrupt descent into overwhelming noise laden prog rock hit like a seizure. This section sounds strongly like Trail of Dead. The moment passes; the song effortlessly slips back into the original indie vibe. Despite the strange juxtaposition, that Tourette's tic of chaotic noise feels integral to the song.

Stoner wraps up with Ten Thousand Hours, which is the most overtly psychedelic of the three songs. Tentative noodling in the beginning backed by modulating swells of sound evoke a distracted, skewed mindset. The song gets underway with a progressive drive and a clear direction, but the quavering swells underneath imply that things aren't quite so simple. That sets up the next section with primal scream vocals and mellow accompaniment. It's sort of a Trail of Dead meets Pink Floyd. The music presents a mix of low fi and clean sounds. Feedbacking guitars are layered in with a clean full band sound (keys, guitar, bass, and drums). The noise grows in the mix. If the Ordinary Dream had a seizure, Ten Thousand Hours has a full breakdown.

Valleys' songs show a rich complexity. I like how they string together a collection of sounds and feels, creating a single mood shifting song. Ground yourself with a couple of shots of espresso and jump on board...

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