Neo-Psychedelik Chamber Folk-rock?
Officially released on August 19 and currently available through independent label Thrill Jockey, Thalia Zedek Band’s newest album Eve marries the raw attitude of punk rock with the lyricism of folk music, although not always comfortably or convincingly. The band describes their music on their Facebook page as “neo-psychedelik chamber folk-rock”, a surprisingly apt description for their latest release, which combines these influences with a distinctly minimalist aesthetic that eschews conventionally pretty sounds in favor of more authentic, unfiltered ones.
The first track “Afloat” begins the album’s A-side with thoughtfully constructed, stripped-down folk rock, opening with a clean guitar riff and scratchy viola, and the rest of the band joins in gradually before lead-singer Zedek delivers a triumphant melody with her signature raspy vocals. Merging the quiet/loud song structure of bands like Pixies and Nirvana with patient, expansive development, the opener sets the bar high, sounding more like a great live performance than a studio recording.
By the fourth track “Illumination”, however, the arrangements, instrumentation and lyrics begin to feel static and repetitive. Zedek’s meandering, mid-tempo guitar ticks away underneath the Dylan-esque drone of her voice and painful, strained viola counterpoint. While these elements are effective vehicles for tension and release throughout the album, a degree of ear fatigue may be inevitable for the unindoctrinated.
The album’s B-side develops slowly, especially in the nearly 8-minute epic “Not Farewell”, but the band saves its best material for last. “Walking in Time” is particularly refreshing and imaginative, with layered acoustic and electric guitars, tremolo effects from the viola, feedback and other miscellaneous noises evoking the pyrotechnics of The Who, experimentalism of ’60s psychedelia and noise rock bands like Sonic Youth. In “All I Need”, Zedek reflects on her personal changes and feelings of contentment, accompanied by assertive strumming and spacey pedal steel guitars.
Eve feels at times more like a series of sketches than a collection of meticulously constructed compositions and is by no means a concise artistic statement; nonetheless, the band’s new album has some very enjoyable moments, and Zedek makes a convincing argument that after 30 years in music she still has plenty more to say.