MUSIC: Sounds from the Expanse: Desert Noises Give Away Their EP

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Music

What surprises me so much about Desert Noises self-titled EP is just how kinetic it is. Knowing that it was released by local label Northplatte Records, I expected on my first listen to hear a well polished—and emotionally rich—work, with roots in folk music. And I did. But the record also isn’t merely a gentle charting of pathos. Instead, its tonal diversity at once elicits sorrow, exuberance, and nostalgia. Some songs are slow, while others are very nearly danceable, but all of them represent a raw convergence of different musical genres and philosophies.

This Saturday, Desert Noises will be giving away said debut EP for free during their show at Velour. The concert will also feature Sayde Price and Parlor Hawk (formerly Moses), and will be the first chance audiences have to hear Parlor Hawk’s upcoming album, which will be playing between sets. For Desert Noises, however, the show will be a chance to get people interested before they return to the studio to work on their next album.

“We want people to know about us, but at the same time we want them to have something while they’re waiting for the new release,” said Kyle Henderson, who plays guitar and sings in the band. “We think the old EP should be in people’s hands, instead of them having to pay for it.”

And given the clarity the EP achieves, that next album should be well worth the wait.

The EP begins with “Morning Song,” a reverb- and harmony-heavy piece that, at only 44 seconds long, feels more like a prelude than an opener. It’s pretty, and I wouldn’t have minded hearing what it could have become as a full song, but as it currently stands it also provides a sharp contrast for the more explosive second track, “Mad Moon.” That song is similarly folk-based, but feels much more expansive with its full band. I especially appreciated the xylophone in the background, and though Desert Noises isn’t the first band to write a song like this, they do it as well as anyone.

“Building Glass Walls” comes next and is probably my favorite track on the record. It combines the spacey folk-rock I had expected to hear with a surprising dance beat. It’s ethereal, but upbeat, and makes the argument that Desert Noises isn’t a band that should always be listened to sitting down.

The next two songs, “Kelton” and “Blue Skies,” continue to take the album through emotional highs and lows. The latter is a soft, almost-vintage sounding acoustic tune, while the former brings back the full band. Listening to them, I couldn’t quite pin down the band’s genre and I began to be reminded of another expressive-but-genre-less musician, Sufjan Stevens. Though comparisons between other folk-with-a-full-band groups like Fleet Foxes are easily apparent (and appropriate), it was Stevens’ softer material that I kept thinking of as I listened to the album’s middle songs and moved through its final two, a rhythmic tune called “New Man” and the more contemplative “Devil’s Own.”

If the record feels raw at times—and it certainly does—it’s probably because the band recorded it over the course of only four days. Henderson told me they “just kind of banged it out really quick. Something that I like about it is it feels like it was on the spot.”

For the most part, that works–and in some cases it’s downright surprising, given how polished the tracks can seem. At other times, however, I would have appreciated a tad more finesse. Still, many great musicians have succumbed to the temptation of over-production, and I’d hate to see Desert Noises lose any of their expansive emotionality.

If Desert Noises’ concert on Saturday is anything like their EP, attendees won’t just acquire a free CD–they’ll also have felt something more profound, which is what the band hopes for.

“I hope that people walk away with something they won’t forget,” Henderson said of the concert. “I hope it will be a memorable show and will hopefully make them want to follow what’s coming next.”

After listening to the EP, I know I’ll be following them, all the way to the desert.

Find out more about Saturday’s concert, featuring Desert Noises, Parlor Hawk, and Sayde Price here.

Jim Dalrymple is a regular correspondent for Rhombus.

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