By Lisa Talley | firstname.lastname@example.org
Gentle guitars serenade over a driving rhythm section, but where dominating vocals would predictably take over the lead, it is, instead, an airy presence that wafts in like a finely crafted piece of a well-balanced ensemble.
The Fresno-based band, Eighteen Hundreds, recently released their sophomore EP, Moon Cults, in December 2018 – the follow up to their debut, Sun Cults.
Self-proclaimed as ‘Ghost Surf,’ the band chose a relatively new genre/phrasing in an attempt to more aptly define their sound to a fresh audience. However, without any point of reference to fully understand what that might actually mean (as opposed to umbrella terms such as rock, metal, or the deeply vanilla ‘alternative’) – try, rather, another band like say, Modest Mouse, sporting 3 guitars but with softer voices. And while this might be a good yet somewhat generic place to start, I also have to admit that it isn’t the whole kit n caboodle in discussing the vibe of Eighteen Hundreds’ music.
Moon Cults delivers the band’s range in a 5-song spread. Track 1, “Colleen,” brings out a dreamy mood that sounds like the signature anthem of a midnight drive through the desert – where it’s all empty roads, sky, and stars shining like beacons through the inky sea of black. The song’s bridge draws back the noise and lets the bass carry the melody. And it’s here in the middle of a figurative midnight-drive-mood that it hits me… the other layer in their sound that I couldn’t put my finger on but felt warmly familiar.
Faint yet unmistakable in the belly of the Eighteen Hundreds’ sound is an essence of 80s nostalgia with a touch of New Wave influence living in their rhythm section.
My suspicions are confirmed, without a doubt, on the second track, “Sister Cistern”, as the pulsating toms of the drums push through the instrumentation in a signature staccato found all throughout the 80s alternative genre – as a quick and dirty example, think of a dialed back “Hanging on the Telephone” by Blondie. And if there was any question to this theory, it’s silenced in the final track, “Fox Sister,” as the song holds the memory of New Wave synth replaced with well-timed guitar accents.
Eighteen Hundreds live, prove they’re consummate professionals – they know who they are and why they’re here. The drummer plays with a punk kid’s heartbeat, and the syncopation with the bass isn’t just on point, it’s damn near surgical precision. And from one bassist to another, I definitely lived for those melodies and counter melodies albeit how brief they may have been.
The laid back ‘surf’ sound deceives the technical prowess lurking throughout the EP with tempo changes, articulated layers, and the meticulous balance of harmony. But, of course, you’ll have to decide for yourself. Moon Cults is available online for streaming and purchase of either single tracks or the full package along with Sun Cults at EighteenHundreds.BandCamp.com
To keep up with Eighteen Hundreds news and upcoming shows, follow them on Facebook @1800smusic.