Still and Moving Lines

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Departures hail from the decidedly non-exotic city of Winnipeg, where the climate is sunny, windy, and really cold in the winters. The band's debut album, Still and Moving Lines, certainly reflects the coldness of wintertime; Departures' cloistered, almost claustrophobic sound can only be the product of long nights spent huddled together for warmth boiling their songs down to the essentials, then building them back up in layers of muffled sound. Drawing inspiration from the chilly post-punk of bands that also hailed from cold northern cities (Joy Division) and the knotted, intensely coiled sound of '90s Midwestern indie rock (Nice Strong Arm, Slint), the quintet packs a lot of emotion and angst into its music. Built around a tangled mosaic of guitars (ranging from quiet jangle to all-out screech) and an understated but powerful rhythm section, the album has many dimensions (both sonically and emotionally) that can take a while to appreciate fully, but once you get past the icy exterior, there is a warmth underneath that is comforting to embrace. Much of this is down to Nicholas Liang's vocals. Usually buried in the mix and often not much more than a mumble, he conveys real emotion with his voice that contrasts nicely with the wall of guitars. The rampaging energy of the louder tracks, like the careening "Being There" (which features some guitar soloing J Mascis would be proud of) and hard-charging "Pillars," shows warmth to the point of burning up the speakers, and the pleasantly melodic and almost sweet-natured "Swimming" even lets in a few rays of sunshine, but most of the album is restrained and doles out its pleasures in less immediate fashion. It may take a little effort to get to the pleasures, or it may not if the idea of Bitch Magnet recording for Factory sounds like it hits your sweet spot, but it is definitely worth it because Still and Moving Lines is an impressively assured debut.

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