March 23, 2016 | Pete RingMaster
Rousingly fascinating is probably the best way to describe Strange Weather, the new EP from New Jersey trio deardarkhead, that and gloriously suggestive. Across six tracks as cinematic as they are emotionally intimate upon the imagination, band and release immerses the listener in its and their own sculpted exploits. The release is an anthem to the conjuring of bold imaginative adventures and a tapestry of creative virulence for ears to bask in.
The beginnings of deardarkhead go way back to 1988 since when the band has released five recordings on their own Fertile Crescent Records label with a retrospective of their early work additionally released in 2012 by Captured Tracks. Their distinctive fusion of post punk, indie rock, shoe gaze, and dream pop has been greedily devoured by an increasing many whilst their live presence has seen the band play with the likes of Supergrass, The Psychedelic Furs, Everclear and The Lilys amongst numerous other. Despite numerous compilation appearances, and that 2011 retrospective Oceanside: 1991-1993 since last album Unlock the Valves of Feeling was released in 1998, you might say that deardarkhead have been a ‘forgotten’ treat by many; if so that is set to inescapably change with the release of Strange Weather.
Always luring inquiring interest with each release, the band has probably ignited the strongest intrigue with the new EP as it is their first without long time singer/bassist Michael Amper who left the band in 2009. His departure only seemed to ignite a hunger to explore their instrumental side as remaining members, guitarist Kevin Harrington and drummer Robert Weiss proceeded to move in that direction and perform instrumental shows after linking up with bassist Kevin McCauley the following year. The suggestion is that the band is looking for the right vocalist to bring in but on the evidence of Strange Weather, and its empowering potency, you wonder if it will be any loss not finding the right man.
From its first track Strange Weather has ears and emotions enthralled, the imagination just as swiftly ignited as Falling Upward emerges from chilling winds within a dank atmosphere. It is pulled from the wasteland by a nagging guitar, its sonic lure soon colluding with the resonating bait of the bass and crispy textured beats. With them comes a tenacious catchy resourcefulness which infectiously lines the post punk hook and bass groove which subsequently entwine and enslave ears. All the tracks to the EP spark ideas and mental imagery, ones sure to differ person to person, but a cold war like landscape is ours adventure for the opener no doubt helped by having recently watched Deutschland 83. There feels a cinematic kinship between the band’s sound and those visuals with every leap into the sonic tapestry of the song pushing the story along.
With a touch of Leitmotiv to it, the track is a riveting start, leaving ears and pleasure lively and ready to embrace the warmer jangle of Sunshine Through The Rain which follows. There is a calmer air altogether to the song, a melodic radiance which wears the scent of eighties indie pop yet contrasts it with a steely proposal from bass and hypnotic beats. Again captivation is a given to its My Bloody Valentine aired persuasion though it is soon outshone by the thrills and dramas of both Juxta Mare and March Hares. The first of the pair unveils a sultry atmosphere around a delicious melodic hook and bassline which would not feel out of play of a sixties/seventies TV spy thriller. Its lean but thick lure is the spring for an evocative weave of sonic enterprise and suggestive melodies, all courted by the dark shadows of bass and the persistently jabbing swings of Weiss.
As outstanding as it is, it too gets eclipsed by its successor, March Hares stealing the whole show. From the pulsating rhythms of Weiss to the snarling tone of McCauley’s bass, the track has ears and an already lustful appetite enslaved. Their irresistible bait is then entangled in bewitching tendrils of sonic imagination from Harrington; the song subsequently swinging along in the web of their united craft and invention to entice body and spirit further. In full stride, the track has a great feel of The Monochrome Set to it, indeed Harrington’s stringed adventure carries a touch of the English band’s guitarist Lester Square to it as a House of Love shimmer and Birdland like rowdiness add to the slavery.
Ice Age immerses the listener into chillier post punk climes next; its nippy atmosphere and almost bleak ambience tempered by the sonic elegance seeping from the guitar within the anthemic tenacity of the drums. Again it is fair to say that the song lures physical and emotional involvement with ease before Thinking Back explores a maze of reflective melodies and evocative grooves within another addictive rhythmic frame. There is an essence of Echo & The Bunnymen and Bauhaus to the track as post punk and gothic lit shadows and depths spread through sound and thoughts.
The track is an imposingly mesmeric end to a spellbinding release. Strange Weather will have you breathless, excited, reflective, and going on a myriad of imagination bred adventures with its suggestive incitement. We are no experts on deardarkhead and their releases to date but the EP has to be up there as possibly their greatest moment yet.