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Nestled somewhere in the nebulous cracks between genres, The Actors' latest EP High and Low (my first encounter with their sound) is a moving combination of heroic vocals, gentle synthesizer tones, and grooving beats. Mixed with a generous helping of reverb, High and Low is a vivacious and sincere synth-heavy pop album.
Opened by rhythmic tonal croaks amidst layers of ethereal synth melodies, High and Low gradually comes to life with the esoteric “Theory of Something.” An interesting combination of lyrics both metaphorical and grounded, “Theory of Something” builds its conclusion in charming vocal harmonies that “everything is something sometime” only to morph into a gentle grooving outro.
“Through A False Door” follows, quickly exploding in a brilliant burst of guitar hooks and voluminous synthesizer tones. Characterized by its epic atmosphere and a chugging baseline, “Through A False Door” continues to build on the previous tracks intensity with the lead singer belting out in a powerful high tenor.
With a distinct synth line and funky grind on the bottom end, all the best elements that make up High and Low come together on the albums most seductive track “First Date.” The singer is able to show off an impressive vocal range, with fantastic harmonies supporting it, while a tight knit drum and bass build a strong foundation for the more delicate synth tones to rest upon.
This probably best describes what the Actors are able to accomplish with their sound. With such epic and capacious sounds there needs to be something that grounds the listener to the moment of the song. Strong rhythmic baselines coupled with an impressive clock-like drummer fix the ears to a point while the rest of the sounds spiral about in glorious high-energy bursts and reverberations.
Catchy and sweet, High and Low is an exciting EP with plenty of space to discover sounds and hooks within the music that will certainly delight your ears. Rumor is The Actors are working on a new release. If High and Low is a herald of anything then we should expect whatever is upcoming to be just as stimulating.
With jagged guitar strikes piercing a harrowing and portentous synth-drone, Skeletal System’s “Small Talk” opens their just recently released two-track EP. A vast and reverberating chamber of sound engulfing eerie and despondent lyrics, “Small Talk's” pensive mood begs to be played at high volume so that the listener can be consumed by its resonance, sending chills in a fascinating way.
Like a thick cloud punctured by the blips of a falling satellite, “Static Eyes” fills the second side of the single with additional ominous intensity. Marked by its sharp arpeggio-ed synthesizer tones, “Static Eyes” (all though certainly dark in its own right), functions as a lovely bridge out of the utter despair that characterized the previous track.
All in all this EP (or single, however you choose to define it) is a brief but enthralling release by one of San Francisco’s great synth-rock bands. Hopefully, it is a herald of more in-depth things to come. It is available for free at Bandcamp and comes highly recommended.
Unfortunately, the crowd was somewhat thin for last Wednesday’s lineup presented by Ears of the Beholder and Kata Rokkar. Wednesday is perhaps a hard thing to ask of a San Francisco audience. Regardless, the evenings well thought out lineup saw three bands deliver fantastic performances.
It was quiet and cool at the Rickshaw when Sunbeam Rd took to the stage. Initially I was a little put off by what seemed to be a mixing error that was quickly fixed, but was soon sold on this band when one of their two lead singers (who switched depending on the song throughout the set) began horribly abusing his guitar, to great effect, as the their first song ended in a great crescendo. A wash of delicious noise, this swirling looped ball of chaos firmly took hold of my attention and set the tone of Sunbeam Rd’s performance. A brooding but high-energy cavernous indie-rock is the best description their sound, something along the lines of an encumbered Jesus and Mary Chain or a more ominous Yo La Tengo. However you may classify their sound, Sunbeam Rd was a delight to see and I hope to catch them again sometime soon.
The Actors followed with a dramatic change in temperament. With a capacious synth-pop sound reminiscent of a fusion between Band of Horses and MGMT, The Actors filled the spaces between people with their reverb-laden songs. Comprised of three exceptionally talented musicians (two of whom continually switch between instruments throughout the set) The Actors steadily built a captivating groove so that by the time they got to the most powerful song of the set, “First Date,” the whole room had broken out in dance.
By the time the Phantom Kicks took to the stage the crowd had finally fleshed out a bit, though to what I would expect for such an interesting line-up. Featuring a brand new member, the Phantom Kicks kept the energy high delivering their loop heavy synth-pop with a new-found depth. The new member on the synth allowed the other two to focus on building the signature guitar lines that define the Phantom Kicks. Received with much enthusiasm by the crowd (to the point where someone took it upon themselves to spin off the edge of the stage), this was by far the best set I’ve seen by the Phantom Kicks.
In spite of the fairly thin crowd, last Wednesday’s Rickshaw show was an incredible success with Sunbeam Rd, The Actors, and the Phantom Kicks each delivering extraordinary performances. Do your best to catch anyone of these fantastic bands the next time they play.