Enter The Shenandoah Electric Company into Google and you’ll get a hit for an electricity company who boast of serving more than 97000 meters in a number of counties within Virginia including that of Shenandoah. Seeing as the spiritual home of the record is based in Bayse, in Shenandoah, it makes sense that the band would have taken inspiration for their name from the aforementioned organization. The band comprise of Wes Young (formerly of Octaves) on vocals, guitar, OP-1, and piano and two members of Pianos Become The Teeth, David Haik – drums, percussion, and samples along with Michael York on guitar, bass, samples, and synths.
According to the promo notes, writing for LP1 began over five years ago, however disaster struck, and they ended up losing the majority of what they had recorded thus far, meaning they had to start again, building on the foundations of what had been salvaged. When you think about it, it’s a miracle this record exists at all.
This Has To Work, the album’s first single, contains shades of Okkervil River but with a greater emphasis on drama and grandeur. There is a cinematic quality present with the accompanying video taking you on a tour of the band’s environs, making this an ideal track to accompany any number of Dogwoof nature documentaries. Coronation Day feels like Bruce Springsteen during his less anthemic moments and is an uplifting number that helps to raise the spirits. The second single from the album is Hot Mess, that despite its title is anything but. It’s a beautiful track laden in trippy effects and a subtle gothic post-punk omnipresence that reminds one of The Cure’s Plainsong.
From there we move onto Old Boys with its slow build-up and a tension which never quite breaks due to the overriding skill of the band. I had to check my speakers when it came to Pillar Of Salt so muffled did it sound; however, the shoegaze qualities what with the obscured vocals and ethereal nature soon bares its charm. Throw in elements of late period Talk Talk and that band’s love of ambient post-rock structures and you have all the hallmarks of a rather special song indeed.
an incredibly well-crafted and promising debut that hints at further potential greatness to come…
N. Howard St. is the third single to be previewed from the album (in fact on the day I am writing this review – 19th May) and centres around Ottobar, one of the band’s favourite venues in Baltimore. The track may appear straightforward but is anything but. Unlike say a lot of modern day indie rock/art-rock there is no mindless repetitiveness present, with the whole thing, instead, a touching tribute to a location that is clearly so dear to them.
Late Nights, Early Mornings reminds me of the artsy sombreness of bands such The National and latter day Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, while Fools Like Us is a heart-wrenching gem of a tune which will have you crying into your beer. Concluding track Bayse is in the tradition of Pillar Of Salt what with the interesting experimental bent complete with muffled vocals, distortion, and various industrial sounding noises.
The project certainly represents a break away from what its band members are known for within the hardcore/post-hardcore scene, instead offering something that is far more nuanced and textured. Whether this will appeal to fans of the band members day jobs remains to be seen, and as someone who has been a part of those scenes for a fair old while, I am perfectly aware of the strict orthodoxy that can surround them. Personally, I found this an incredibly well-crafted and promising debut that hints at further potential greatness to come.
Scribed by: Reza Mills