Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to not hear about bands. We truly live in a land of musical milk and honey, a world so interconnected we can spoil ourselves and others with the riches of good music with just a few clicks of our mouse. So, when a band and/or its album falls into your lap, and you actually have to do some digging, it’s a gift horse situation if there ever was one. And it’s even more rare (and fulfilling) when that present is actually worthy of enough praise to merit its own time in the blogosphere spotlight. Such is the case for AWOLNATION and their Back From Earth EP.
Never before has the “not long enough” cry been so pronounced than with this EP, which clocks in at about 14 minutes. However, the band are experts at making the most of that time, forging together influences that span time and culture into an absolute high-energy release that burns brightly and with a ferocious and mighty intent. The EP breathes thanks to a shared thread of R&B smoothness, which builds with each track while mutating and altering the baseline influence to give it some edge.
“Burn It Down” is built like a rock and roll jet engine fueled by manic punk and steered by those R&B sensibilities. If Prince made a song (particularly the ending refrain) about destruction and fire, and layered it with lots of heavy sounds and tons of effects, it might have sounded like this (and have a great B-side on Purple Rain). “Guilty Filthy Soul” is where more R&B tinges emerge. Rather than channeling Prince, they’ve tackled some lighter Hall & Oates-level rock. The smooth jazz is replaced by a big distorted bassline, one that menacingly rumbles along, punctuated by a particularly throaty and pained chorus that burrows lovingly inward. Things get more artificial, and as equally soulful, when the song breaks down into high-pitched squeals of ecstasy powered by some sweet Casio chirps and grooves.
“Sail” marks the jump to a decidedly larger sound. With the grandeur of an epic 80’s synth anthem, it’s a tribal chant filtered through grimmy machinery and sprinkled with a light helping of strings. In keeping with the soul/R&B vibe of the other two tracks, lead singer Aaron Bruno’s voice is especially harsh and injured, adding a drop or two of life to a mechanical and repetitive beat. And there’s no better way to end an effort than with the soul-gone-scuzzy sexed-out club jam “MF”. There’s some rap-tastic scratching involved that adds a layer to the booming drum machine and lots of light, often subtle, effects that builds a wall of distorted demonic dance music.
It’s a treat to find great music the way it was meant to: you do it yourself. And like the surprise of finding it, AWOLNATION’s EP roundhouse kicks with its collection of songs ready for the pits and depths of clubs across the world. And to think, all it took was just a little looking.