Erratics' Nothing Goes Here: Ambient Sound-Craft Collides with Guitar-Driven Songwriting

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Erratics Nothing Goes Here

Ambient sound-craft and conventional, guitar-driven songwriting collide on Erratics' first full-length. The two-man band, Alex Nezam and Chris Chartrand, split these eight tracks rather evenly between looping, echoing sound collages and pastoral guitar figures, with both sides converging often. Opening track "Antipodal Shades" makes this intersection apparent early on; slinky, spare guitar lines meander until they are consumed by a pulsating wave, only to emerge at the track's end wearing traces of chorus of delay.

Were they to choose one side over the other, Erratics would make an interesting soft-touch noise outfit or a pretty boring folk band, but Nezam and Chartrand wisely find grist in the overlap of the two poles. The three-chord strummer "When the Buses Stopped Running" sounds like an Elliott Smith demo taped on a fourth-generation Maxell; the hiss and squall don't quite blot out the structure, even if the vocals are purposefully obfuscated by a layer of distortion. "More Like Living" takes half of the prowess of "When the Buses" and doubles its playing time. It's the one moment on the album where it truly feels like two very different bands are sharing the same space, and, given the experimentation elsewhere on the disc, makes you wonder why Erratics settled for such a dirge.

Even with the use of traditional rock instruments played with conventional tunings and techniques, Erratics leans more heavily (and presents itself more intriguingly) the further it pushes the abstract. "Screamgarden" and "Dementia" both kick off with an unidentifiable churn: Is it a backwards tape loop, a washing machine set to "agitate" or a pulled-apart drum break? These more pneumatic moments repeat, build steam and then dissipate, often abruptly. The record is far from seamless in that regard, but it does give each song its own definable arc and allows for each movement, however captivating, time to run its course. That means a song like "Over Atitlan," the set-closer, acts as a palette cleanser through a gently undulating synth arpeggio that shamelessly harkens to a new New Age.

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