The Barrens plays like someone hit “shuffle” on a collection of chimeric Flaming Lips and Black Sabbath albums…
By David Feltman
The self-titled debut from NYC indie rockers The Barrens demonstrates a definite affinity for combining classic and modern psychedelic rock. The opening tracks of the album tell you all you need to know. “Claw Remains” starts off as a droning pastoral with hints of an eastern esthetic before plunging unexpectedly into the proto metal of “Felt.”
The Barrens plays like someone hit “shuffle” on a collection of chimeric Flaming Lips and Black Sabbath albums.
The band leans heavily on the shoegaze school of buzz, hum and repetition to achieve their trippiness. “In the Ice” tinkers with doubling vocal tracks for purposes of harmonies and counter melodies while the backing instrumentation leisurely cruises in a circle at about 5 mph. The nearly 6 minute “Out of the Rain” offers a minute and a half of chanting the mantra, “out of the rain,” with the rest of the track consisting of synthesizer noodling. The result is a tried and true sonic haze that’ll catch you reaching for herbal remedies.
The way vocalists Debbie Chou and Colin Fitz share the spotlight shows some significant Sonic Youth and Portishead influences. And the album is always at its most animated when those influences shine through. The pulse is palpable on songs like “Never Knew” and “Yellow Cigarette.” It’s almost a shame that the band seems so satisfied to space out for most of the album given their capacity for raising a raucous.
The Barrens is a strange and dreamy album that is at once familiar and peculiar. The vocal melody of “Bottom of the Well” continually raises expectations of a chorus or refrain from “I’ll Fly Away” without really having anything in common with the gospel standard. It’s a neat trick and The Barrens pull it off well. The Barrens is a well-executed album, albeit one for acquired tastes. Find the band on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thebarrens