The vocals stir like Elbow, the rhythms pull from ISIS prog, and the ambient noise and additional instrumentation could be chalked up to “indie cred.” What exactly does anyone make of the Boston-based experimental rock trio Eksi Ekso? While Brown Shark, Red Lion is the gentler facet of an act whose previous endeavor, I Am Your Bastard Wings, boasts brass and stressed string chaos, whispered lyrics, and piercing panic, round two shows the ultimately quieter, romanticized side of Eksi Ekso.
While opener “Kills on the Flood Tide” kind of feels like a Radiohead tune in slow motion with Patrick Stump trying to pull off tempered vox, the follow-through of “Carte De Visite” rings in Eksi Ekso’s true nature, riding said vibe out into the dark drums and sporadic key strikes of “Rein, White Sun” or psychologically predatory songs “Brown Shark, Red Lion” and “Black Sea Accomplice” (the latter of which is a most grand and stellar closing orchestra-laden piece).
As if infused by the eclecticism of Peter Gabriel, Eksi Ekso’s more sinister sides shine through on delicate pop threads and an almost hypnotic speaking presence by lead Tom Korkidis. Whatever this says about the band itself can only really be absorbed by a listen of your own, where soundscapes can carve anything from Twin Peaks resonance and disturbance turned tribal drums (“Bellows to Brass Lens”) to funeral marches (“14 to 3”) to a seemingly never-ending cycle of these suspended moods. “West of Rize” or accordion-laced “The Pilot and the Pod” might be positive upending in the atmosphere, though accompanying organ flavors in the former save them from the brink.
While drummer Alex Mihm is probably the biggest contributor to the ominous tension on Brown Shark, Red Lion, the fact of the matter is its slow burn will wear on some and totally envelop others. The album has a way of growing on those who didn’t expect this potent-yet-gradual push into haunting territory. If you’re seeking prog-metal mentality on a folksier, less electrically dependent bent, Eksi Ekso’s slightly less urgent sophomore release will sate the eardrums.