Photo: Us/Them PR

Ether Feather Offers Up “Your Half in the Middle” (premiere)

Moving from Mahavishnu Orchestra-style to '70s-style rock sees the trio move from being Sand to becoming Ether Feather on "Your Half in the Middle".

Ether Feather‘s heavy psych sound sprang from the head of founder Dylan Ryan, who’d spent time drumming with Cursive, Tim Kasher, and Man Man. Joined by Devin Hoff (Sharon Van Etten, Cibo Matto), Tim Young (Late Late Show, Todd Rundgren, Mike Patton, Fiona Apple), the trio recorded two albums under the name Sand before stumbling upon a new direction.

One can hear the shift in the new track, “Your Half in the Middle” culled from the new release Devil Shadowless Hand. Built upon Ryan’s impeccable drumming, it is buoyed by delightfully aggressive bass lines and Young’s searing guitar work. It asks to imagine a fusion between progressive rock of the 1970s and the blues-based heavy rock of acts such as Budgie and Pentagram while sounding thoroughly up-to-date.

“By the time I started writing the third album,” remembers Ryan, “it became clear the music was shifting from the Mahavishnu-esque mid-’70s-fusion to more part-oriented structures, and the songs seemed to want vocals.”

He continues, “As we started tracking those songs, engineer Andrew Murdock (Alice Cooper, Lou Barlow) encouraged us to embrace the stylistic shift and see where it went so I wrote words and another nine or ten songs, some of which became this record and some became the EP (Other Memory) that we recorded with Cooper Crane (Bitchin Bajas) literally on off-days during tour. That had Chris Welcome (Flying Luttenbachers) on guitar and we self-released that in 2017.”

The group undertook roadwork with Cursive and Minus the Bear and quickly realized which songs played best to audiences and the trio’s strengths, thereby making the best choices for inclusion on an album.

“It took us just a little longer than normal to get this record done in part because everyone involved is working a lot in various musical capacities and we were in between bass players for a while, and we just played shows and put writing on the back burner,” says Ryan.

With Young occupied with The Late Late Show and current bassist Sylvia Black working with Lydia Lunch in addition to Ryan’s own time with Cursive and Man Man, the material had even more time to marinate.

“The lineup with Sylvia now has really solidified, and we’ve been recording new music,” notes Ryan.

“Musically, compositionally, etc, we’ve always liked to stretch out a little, not saying we ‘jam’ or anything that dramatic,” he adds, “but Tim is a really, really, unique guitar player and allowing him to shine is a no-brainer and guitar solos have always been a part of the Ether Feather style, but it’s been nice to work with more tones in a studio setting and play with harmonies and denser composed sections of music like moments on ‘Interstellar’ or ‘Your Half in the Middle’. Tony Iommi and Alex Lifeson are key components in the DNA of Ether Feather, and this album was a different experience from the EP in that working with Mudrock (Andrew Murdock) we took more time with the guitar and bass sounds overall.”

As for the group’s overall aesthetic? Ryan offers this: “Ether Feather is definitely a band where we can try weirder stuff and stretch out creatively in ways that may not be appropriate in other musical situations. We can mix and blend aesthetics and make hard turns. Tim was in the Pacific Northwest during the first wave of grunge and brings something very different than me to the table, coming up in the late 1990s Chicago no wave/free jazz/metal scene.”

He concludes, “I guess that the Chicago scene from those days still plays a role in my musical choices. Hanging out at the Fireside Bowl in those days and seeing Pelican one weekend, the Flying Luttenbachers the next, Tortoise the next, Macabre the next. The scene seemed to have some crossover and people playing far out jazz also played post-rock or heavy stuff. The goal always seemed to be the same, to make compelling music even if drawing inspiration from old stuff or new stuff that’s outside the scope we tend to work within.”