Duo Jared Artaud and Brian MacFadyen operate under the name the Vacant Lots, and on their debut album, Departure, they show off their psychedelic and collaborative interplay. The two take minimal rock elements—guitar, drums, voice—and expand them to their limits, sometimes with the help of electronics. Much of Departure is eccentric and experimental, though the band seems to ease us into their stranger side. Opener “Mad Mary Jones” may buzz with treated sounds at its start, but it’s a basic blues-rocker at heart, as is “Never Satisfied”.
When the band dives into the strange drifting echoes of “Paint This City” or the electro-jangle of “Before the Evening’s Thru” you finally get a feel for the duo’s own singular aesthetic. The 10-minute “Make the Connection” shows both the promise and limits of their abilities, as the growling guitars whip up a hypnotizing sound but the spoken-word lyrics distract more than they add. The duo is capable of subtle layering in their music, and the best songs use voice as another layer, even if what they’re saying isn’t always an interesting addition to the songs. Still, Departure is an ambitious and brave debut, one that reveals a lot of promise and an awfully big sound for just two players.