The first full length studio album from ambient/shoegaze musical auteurs Ephrata is a watershed moment in this young band’s career. The four member group consisting of guitarist Brady Hall, vocalist Skandi von Reis, bassist Jules Jones, and drummer Ben Bromage play like an unit who have been together for years and their unique weave of synth, guitar, and high flown vocals has a seamlessness that casts a spell in every performance. The general demeanor of the collection is decidedly downcast, but it is all grounded in concrete human experiences and realities rather than coming off as melodramatic teenage angst. The atmospherics they conjure never risk overstatement and, instead, are well served by thoughtful production finding a nice balance between the different musical and sonic elements present in the recording. Ephrata, with this release, seize a position as one of the most promising acts of this ilk working their way up the ladder today.
The band gets things off to a rambunctious start with the opener “Oops”. This is a song that does much to dramatize the differences between their lyrical approach and the point of view adopted by more obvious, melodramatic songwriters. They are wise and talented enough to understand how a little dash of humor, however dark, that’s added to the final result helps making intense or difficult emotions more digestible for mass consumption. Brady Hall’s guitar work is particularly strong here, but bassist Jules Jordan and an outstanding vocal arrangement are highlights as well. The icy blasts of Hall’s guitar on the second track “Tunguska” is well nigh overwhelming and accompanied by some more first class playing from the rhythm section; it’s compelling to hear how, each time out, Ephrata are able to make their vocal presence felt with a distinctive flavor. The songwriting, likewise, never meanders thanks to focused running times and a consistency of sound that, even when they indulge slightly different directions, never ventures far enough outside the box as to be rendered unrecognizable. “Breakers” comes across as a big, bruising guitar work out that maintains the same steady march throughout its running time while being accompanied by exquisitely sensitive vocals that, nonetheless, are capable of erupting into a soulful bray at any given moment.
The shimmering reverb on Brady Hall’s guitar at the beginning of “Sea of Straight Faces” has a spacious and instantly identifiable sound and the vocals join in with just the right amount of force. It is one of the few moments on the album when Ephrata come close to outright pressive rock and the results are quite impressive. “1000 Things” has a post-modern punk bit and growling guitar that sound ready to rumble from the start; one might suspect the vocals may not be up to task of such a sound and, if you are one of them, well, you’re wrong. Skandi von Reis does a killer job and nails these songs down with a combination of finesse and power. The final song “Sun Scenario” is distinctly different than what has come before and finds the four piece stretching out musically with vivid and audience pleasing results. Ephrata’s self titled first album is a big score for them in every way.