In a sleepy burg of the woody east lies a valley full of musical pioneers. Amongst the panoply of rock, garage, punk and jazz groups in their scene, Low-Beam is the clear and present leader of the pack. Following in the quarter century footfalls of past Mystic/New London, Connecticut scene luminaries like the Reducers, 17 relics, Lotus, Seratonin and Portersville, Low-Beam have dedicated their brief career to reaching the masses beyond the cult of rabid followers in their dreamy little hamlet. The release of their second EP, Every Other Moment demonstrates how significant geography is in the sound of this band. With both New York and Boston just a night drive away, Low-Beam seamlessly embodies the sounds of the '80s college rock intelligentsia to the north, and the Bowery art-punk that have prevailed in Gotham to the south for the past three decades. Just to prove that they are indeed forging a New England, Low-Beam also incorporate drone, psychedelic and trance elements borrowed in liberal doses and imported from the merry mother country. The distillation of these disparate elements combine to form the ever-expanding core of Low-Beam's delicate, yet brutal, hazy wall of sound.
Case in point is the opener "Stratosphere". Incorporating a rhythm section hell-bent on a crack impression of mid-'80s New Order coupled with a reverb drenched guitar and keys straight off of the Band's Music from Big Pink is no small feat. Somehow team Beam finds the gusto to do so, and do it without sounding entirely like a failed live band version of a DJ mash-up. While "Stratosphere" isn't the finest track in this collection, it is a suitable example of the ability of the group to engage and skillfully combine a fragmented group of musical ideas into a more cohesive whole.
The project picks up considerably with sun spun up-tempo rocker "Airstream". Losing the reverb in favor of a bit more crunch, guitarist and lead vocalist CJ Stankewich hurtles his group into a void of pop bliss. The confection is made all the sweeter with the addition of his belle Jaimee Weatherbee providing a soothing tonic with joint lead vocals. "Airstream" captures the dedication of Low-Beam to a pop songwriting sensibility perfectly paired with the wonder of vocal harmony in the vein of past post-lounge and drones all-stars like Stereolab.
Demonstrating a fondness for the sounds of their past musical incarnations, "Rocky Point" is an homage to the pulsing dub electrockica of drummer Rich Freitas' mid-'90s band Delta of Venus. Although Stankewich is no match on the mic for Venus frontman Tarbox, "Rocky Point" still is able to reveal a new dimension of drug-induced hysteria behind the fever-pitch fills of Freitas, which capture a new flavor to add to the Low-Beam oeuvre.
Weatherbee moves to lead vocal duties on the gentle acoustic anti-ballad "Tourmaline". There is a clear lineage exposed here, linking the Beams to indie classics like Helium's Dirt of Luck, Mazzy Star's So Tonight That I Might See and left coast studio songsmith Mirah's moody Advisory Committee. Through a collective of dynamic, yet subtle performances, "Tourmaline" is able to achieve a winning and emotive result without sacrificing one of Low-Beam's strengths, the intrinsic power of their interplay as musicians.
Every band worth their salt has a devastating crowd pleaser in their arsenal and Low-Beam is no exception. The jubilant "Tuffy Rhodes" finds bassist Rich Martin trading in his Peter Hook inspired licks in favor of a more steady hand that recalls the playing of Naomi Yang. Stankewich and Freitas quickly fall into step and the outcome is a track that wouldn't be out of place on Galaxie 500's swansong, This Is Our Music. A symphony of ringing guitars, frenetic tom heavy drumming and pleasant male/female vocals, "Tuffy Rhodes" is the first classic track in the Low-Beam catalogue.
The EP concludes with a cover of, former Spacemen 3 and current Spiritualized leader, Jason Pierce's "All of My Tears (so hot)". While the track is well performed and produced this is nothing more than a carbon copy of the original Pierce studio recording. There is little to suggest the personality of Low-Beam has been invested into the fabric of this song. In order for a young band to close an EP with a cover, there must be a certain vitality that the band impresses upon the track itself. An excellent example of this would be TV on the Radio's brilliant acappella rendition of the Pixies' "Mr. Grieves" from their debut EP, which was a stirring new twist on a beloved song. Instead of following the chosen route, Low-Beam would have better served to include another stirring original rather than a mimeograph of a Pierce favorite. It is sad to end a promising collection of songs with a cover that would have been better left behind.
Given the indisputable fact that the music world is overpopulated with pretenders and hacks there is no question that we need more legitimate contenders like Low-Beam. Their keen melodic sense coupled with the ability to establish a winning simplicity in their songwriting gives this group a definitive leg up on their peers. With the release of their second EP Every Other Moment, Low-Beam show flashes of brilliance that, at times, translates into an addictive and necessary pop narcotic. If this band ever gets the chance to make a full-length album there is a pretty good chance that they will make addicts out of all of us.