Nothing hymnal in Hymnal, but what we get is much better. The LA duo In the Valley Below’s three-track debut EP lies somewhere between atmospheric soundscapes and outwardly bouncing melodies, coming off like Husky Rescue inspired by urban metropolises after dark rather than nature. The mix of stylish synth tones and sparingly but effectively used live instruments is a great one, but the key element here is the equal lead vocal duty share the two members have: their voices work perfectly together and create an excellent back-and-forth effect.
The title track plants a beautiful layer after another over a persistent beat, coming off less like a hymn and more a lullaby, at least until the piercing guitar comes to surprise you near the end. “Last Soul” is the energetic stomper of the trio as well as the deserved centrepiece of the EP, showcasing just how great and important the vocal interplay is with the duo. The song’s effortlessly cool aesthetics meet a precisely striking, instantly effective chorus in such a well-crafted way it’s hard to believe we’re talking about a debut EP: if there is a tune here that really makes you want to hear more, it’s this. “Palm Tree Fire” closes the album on a moody note, introducing new elements gradually to its murky beginnings until it closes with a wave of vocal harmonies, noisy guitars, synths both squealing and ambient, saxophone samples and stuttering drums. It’s an excellent set of songs that not only support eachother to great effect but each of which could be the leading star on their own.
If the goal of a debut EP is to entice the listener and grab their attention, In the Valley Below have succeeded in it brilliantly. Hymnal is a great treat whose only fault is that it’s criminally short.