Snowden: Anti-Anti

[5 November 2006]

By Dan Raper

Snowden claims to be Anti-Anti on their debut record, but come out sounding not for much at all. What is “anti-anti” anyway? The phrase (clever-sounding) implies passion, implies taking a stand, implies positivity. But this shoegaze-y guitar band’s too wrapped up in themselves to be really effective at anything that overt.

Snowden’s done it right up until this debut, by playing and leaking new tracks often steadily since their 2004 EP, supporting powerhouses the Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah, and others, and by generally being cool and New York-y. They name-check Joy Division in the song “Black Eyes”, and wish for that disaffected insight… and they’ve been compared to Interpol, but they’re not as skillful yet. The singer and creative center of the band, Jordan Jeffares, has created a band with a heap of potential—but they have a little ways to go yet before they reach the lofty heights of the bands they idolize.

The band’s basic M.O. is multi-layered guitar rock. Think: fuzzed-out guitars, full of atmosphere, and melodic lines that twist unexpectedly, following the words and sometimes battling against the words. Snowden’s is not showy music; choruses don’t play a vital role in the songs on Anti-Anti, and the repetition of thematic elements that makes up much of the disc can drag, though it is effective in creating atmosphere, its intent. For example, “Like Bullets”‘s pulsing, almost chanting delivery emphasizes one note, only to fall off it at the end of a word or phrase. Behind the wash, guitars battle with subtly different times and gradually build—so yes, atmospheric, repetitive.

But it’s the promise of a new, positive stand (accompanied by the classic soundtrack of apathy) that is Snowden’s biggest proclamation. “Black Eyes”, one of the album’s high points, twins tremolo guitar lines with an underlying drone, guitar effects weaving in and out of the verse in a way that is both thrilling and mesmerizing. Even at their most serene, as on “My Murmuring Darling” or “Sisters”, the band drives forward—the effect is of unsettled, about-to-break peace. “Innocent Heathen” uses an interesting pinging effect that slowly grows, adding instruments to create a full, immersive sound.

The effect of the cycling guitar atmospherics is the creation of a music to get lost in. Tunes like “Anti-Anti” get under your skin—not the first time, but the third or fourth time you listen to them. The mechanism for this is textural: since the melodies are minimal (usually floating around not more than three notes), it’s the piled-high guitar lines that capture the attention. But a consequence of this—when they repeat a phrase like “This is where I realize” on “Between the Rent and Me”—is not really sophisticated, and not really compelling. Yes, Snowden’s songs can be a bit, well, boring.

On the title track, Snowden sings, “We are anti-movements, we are anti-anti / One time we believed but now we don’t even try”. It seems that, despite themselves, the band has lapsed back into the self-absorption and apathy of shoegaze’s past. Because of this, their debut is only average. But in the future, we should hope this band realizes its potential –- there’s great album in these guys, perhaps, waiting to be recorded.

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