Oklahoma City band Speak, Memory return after seven years with a sublime three-song EP entitled Adirondack. The EP speaks almost entirely without lyrics, taking listeners on a spiritual voyage grounded in the natural world, across the peaks, lakes, verdant valleys and the dizzying cliffs of the Adirondack mountain range it is named after. The predominantly instrumental band takes inspiration from an emo and math rock sound oozing influence from bands like Unwed Sailor, Explosions in the Sky, Appleseed Cast and American Football. Their sound also reminds me of riffs by Rilo Kiley’s Blake Sennett.
Opening the release is ‘Trails’ which transports you to a night with clear skies and bright stars before whisking you off on an effervescent adventure. All the while bassist Cody Fowler and drummer Jonathan Thomas are guided by Timothy Miller’s guitar, whose unique and intricate playing weaves a tale of young love. The band projects an almost unending feeling of hope and wonder. Their songs stir and galvanise the imagination and the lack of lyrics only adds to a sense of weightlessness and free expression. Music in unrestrained flux.
Crashing drums build and build to a mighty crescendo. Guitar and bass dance; entwining, twisting and swirling as if one. Like the mountain air, the song shifts its moods from a calm breeze to colossal gusts. Miller’s vocals feature for the first time in the second track on the EP, ‘Lakes’, which is more rugged. The cool climate of Adirondack heats up, and it is as if we have moved from mountain peaks that meet with the air to rocky, dirt-filled terrain and dense vegetation. Miller’s baritone chants are monotonous, muffled and ethereal. They enter as a surprise, far beyond the song’s midway point. The foggy words are meant to mimic the mist of human memory which can trick us, especially during times of love and times of loss.
The melody is jagged as the musicians work to dupe the listener time and again into thinking the song is about to fall apart, only to save it at the very last minute, shifting all of ‘Lakes’ musical parts back into seamless harmony. Orchestrated almost-chaos creates tension and angst in the song drawing a fine line between order and pandemonium. The ultimate track, ‘Cabin’, ends the voyage with effortless splendour and almighty clamour. The song is a force of nature, Fowler’s bass creeps and dives. Emotions swell in its six-plus minutes, ending with the howling sound of a guitar gushing into a drone. The song ends with a distraught woman’s voice as she talks semi-inaudibly of anxiety and a hurt heart.
Speak, Memory explores hope in a volatile and ever-changing world in their EP Adirondack. It is an ode to nature and will have you flicking through all the beautiful places and scenes stored in your View-Master mind. Let’s hope it does not take another seven years for them to release another melodic gem.