An Intriguing Cloak of Darkness
Most bands would be amazed how simple it is to stand out. Though Brooklyn electronic duo ERAAS might christen their debut with such nondescript, synth orchestra swells in the guise of “Black House,” their uniquely gothic mood is already well in place—inevitably waiting to be expanded upon.
Really, it’s the details that make this album. Since ERAAS as a band seem to lean toward the minimalistic, their details are of a distinct presence throughout the album. A muted percussion or guitar might run for only a few bars on a given track and then disappear in the mix, but the skillful manner in which these little flourishes are placed is telling of the band’s talent. Such attention to detail is particularly noteworthy on “Ghost,” where a spookily plucked banjo sails over a loop sounding as though it were ripped from the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. The track maintains a legitimate tension over its five-minute run time, and is one of the most effective examples of ERAAS taking the pulsing rhythms of electronic music and overlaying them with an intriguing cloak of darkness.
Much of this effectiveness seems in no small part due to the duo’s tasteful intertwining of electronic and natural-sounding instruments. Such a point might seem of little consequence, but these days, you are more likely to find examples of this marriage coming off contrived and hammy rather than convincing and direct. “Fang” is a relatively bristling number that pairs bass and simple finger snaps in the center against a layer of processed vocals and drums, working extremely well in this sense, as well as to streak the album’s dark haziness with a few washes of color. A track like “Fang” or the beautifully obscure “At Heart” carve out an excellent sound for the duo.
The instrumentals for the most part stand well on their own. The vocals on ERAAS are equally tasteful in their execution, and perhaps the backbone to the album’s true identity. Though the vocals again take a fairly simple and direct approach, don’t mistake straightforward for insubstantial. Many of the vocal takes give voice to the intense figure on the album’s cover, letting exorcised echoes and despairing chants ripple across the album’s 11-song landscape. However, exceptions are made to this overtly mournful approach with results just as impactful. Though the almost sing-songy take on “Briar Patch” parallels its world music rhythms, there nonetheless remains a hint of the sinister, giving the track a variant but still twisted theme.
There are a few uninspired moments where ERAAS allow the listener momentary reprieve, but those are generally eclipsed by the longer, more expansive and overall superior tracks that comprise this otherwise impressive album.