Playing to Vapors puts art back into art rock and gets the shoegazers to lift their eyes to the heavens with latest release.
Shred the Master Design is the brand-new release from Playing to Vapors. The Columbus, Ohio’s unique brand of shoegaze-cum-prog rock is on full display across this new effort. “The Perfect Weapon in Human Form” takes a page from the rock and world influences heard in peak era Talking Heads with particularly deft work from guitarists Mike Stokes and Daron Mackenzie while the brawny rhythm section of Zackary Cramp (bass) and Josiah DePaso (drums) gives us a glimpse of its powerful breadth.
Throughout the album DePaso plays with a sensitivity to melodic structure, reacting to each song’s sense of narrative and delivering additional emotional dimension. Cramp serves as more than an anchor, providing extra musical depth in songs already rich in that matter. A song such as “Twin Flame” walks the line between the artful and the accessible: Doses of edge-cutting sounds rub elbows with a powerful hook and masterful, drama-fueled vocal performance from Lucas Harris. It is as once the kind of hefty catharsis dealt up by bands such as Neurosis and the kind of sweet but search melodicism heard from Minus the Bear. The culmination of the group’s tendency to create complex, charged sound structures is the closing “Lydia”, a piece that may or may not be a love song and which imagines a marriage between vintage Radiohead and the Plastic Ono Band. It’s six minutes of heavy travel that offers no easy answers before it makes itself absent, inviting listeners to wait patiently for the band’s return or to take the journey all over again.
It’s become commonplace for some bands to walk the line between the worlds of the arty and the accessible but to do it as successfully as this collective as is anything but common. Hovering over all this is a sense of intrigue and an intention to inspire deep, passionate listening among the audience. The music thrusts us between the poles of comfort and disquiet with ease and respect, a commendable feat all on its own.
Harris, though, suggests that this was less a matter of fate than design. "We sought to throw out many of the practices we’d used in the past to make a record (hence the title). It was the first album we’d recorded to tape, many of the decisions were made at the moment, and songs were literally crafted as we were tracking them. Our producer Josh Antonuccio was all about capturing performances and bringing out the energy that he saw from us live. This gave the album a raw aesthetic that can be heard on many of the tracks."
Playing to Vapors' Shred the Master Design is out June 16 and may be streamed in its entirety now.