"Waters Rising" EP
The sophomore EP from The Rope, entitled "Waters Rising", has been slower in coming out than many of us would have liked, although the wait has definitely been worthwhile. Founded in Minneapolis five years ago, the quintet already sparked much interest in and around the dark realm with the release of its self-titled debut in 2011. The personality with which they took their early Post-Punk and New Wave influences into their own Gothic Rock sphere, yet distinguished them from those merely throwbacks that were blossoming everywhere at that time. Even if the band's first mini-album was certainly good, one could feel that their best musical effort was still to come and "Waters Rising" refutes that perception.
Currently formed by Jesse Hagon (vocals), Michael Browning (guitar), Sam Richardson (bass), Paul Teravskis (keyboards) and Ben Rickel (drums), The Rope have set the bar higher through this new half-dozen tracks. Notably, any lo-fi residue from their old material has been watered down in this EP due to a more meticulous and sunnier production work. As a result, you will enjoy a crisp, dynamic sound and a fuller mix with more detail in the higher ranges and, moreover, it can be witnessed an harmonic enhancement and a broader tone spectrum. Nevertheless, the band's hallmark sound has lost none of its anthemic urgency. The propelling tandem stays throbbing and pounding like a heartbeat all along the songs and, drifting into a haze of - more prominent - synths whether they are somber or iridescent, the guitars wail on softly phased, fuzzy tones and, hovering over all, the singer makes vivid the lyrical despair by means of raspy, soul-stirring croons which have been also improved here.
Given such compelling layout, it's hardly surprising that you notice traces of past greats such as The Chameleons, Killing Joke, Pink Turns Blue, Psychedelic Furs, Stiff Kittens or Southern Death Cult - in the view of the undersigned, of course - besides, obviously, expected kingpins like Joy Division, The Cure and The Sisters of Mercy. Even though it's true that they flare up and subside intermittently within few seconds. So, leaving aside the spot-the-reference game, it can be stated loud and clear that "Waters Rising" offers much more than simple nostalgic music, as it sounds undeniably modern and evidences high song-writing standards. Not in vain, this band is able to rightly balance inescapable, yet kaleidoscopic enough ambiances with a crafted gossamer of laser-focused grooves, skilled soaring, partly husky baritones and hook-heavy guitars; not only that, but also they do all this now with an accurate melodic sensibility and adding a subtle radio-friendly touch.
Precisely, "Where the Bones lie" makes the unveiling honors in an unusually upbeat manner but what you are ultimately with is a hell of a beating pop song that treasures beneath its coat of euphoric keyboards some elegiac, thrilling guitar chimes to take great pleasure in. Fittingly, a chill runs through "Touch of Ghosts" when the rhythmical pair starts to impose a persistent, fateful trotting. As it moves forward, a haunted atmosphere settles over the whole piece, like fine powder sprayed from glacially sweeping synths and tolling twangs. After a while, Jesse's voice calmly comes in, plangent and gripping, and does not take long enter the listener's mind to stay. It's an eerie, smoldering number that makes for one of the mini-album centerpieces, as well as the roof-raiser hymn "Suffer", spurred on by rattling thuds and elastic bass rumbles in such a classy Post-Punk fashion, and additionally stuffed with electrifying, flawless guitar figures which are given a vintage Gothic Rock appeal, ranging from jagged riffs, to twitching scratches and to ringing chords. It never fails to send shivers down the spine, specially during the irresistibly huge choruses. And the same would be applied to "Clockwork" and "Before the Knife", albeit they go deeper into bleak terrain while shifting down one gear. Also noteworthy these cuts is the virtual absence of keyboards, whether they're now strategically placed in the background to emphasize the obscure pastels of the entire painting from time to time. Instead, there are some extra layers of guitar, icy and creepy echoing, which end to join together with the stridently bowed bass so that a sort of wasteland is triggered and, once there, Jesse's harrowing, low-pitched timbre is achingly amplified. Both have the overall power of those Gothic Rock classics which increase in worth with the passing of time. Completing the tracklist is the bittersweet "Annie". Unearthly and soothing at the same time, the tunes coming from the pads and the strings cryptically swirl in mournful, strange ways to portray an universal sense of loss. The children of the '80s are likely to have a thoroughly enjoyable deja vu over the song's last third, when some epic, wistfully solos begin winding their way around the floating, litany-like refrain: "... / On underwater / Annie is coming home".
Review by Billyphobia