The universe is too small for all the Quilt-sounding bands that occupy it.
Where there are vocals sopped in reverb and guitars that may as well be missing every string but the bottom two, there are typically fashion-savvy college kids pasting it together on GarageBand in their dorms and recreating it to their like-minded acquaintances in Allston basements. This aesthetic is just the latest to attract droves of non-musicians thirsty for a venue to show off their new suspenders and Boardwalk Empire shoes; every demographic has its own half-baked movements, and American culture is usually worse off for it.
But, like every lie, behind every mindless musical trend is a kernel of truth -- a band that takes to the style with the musical and compositional deftness that the vast majority of its peers lack. Quilt is, intentionally or (presumably) not, legitimizing "chillwave" -- there, I said it; don’t expect me to again -- with their new self-titled LP and making a few of their own waves in the process, chill and otherwise.
From the opening chords of “Young Gold,” the trio’s proclivity for classic rock guitar is undeniable. Although they may be logged with gratuitous reverb, the interplay between the dual, highly rhythmic guitars pushes the impeccable vocal melody to the forefront, despite its deliberately stifled mix. The reverb actually works to this band’s advantage in a unique way; because the guitars are so percussive, the effects overlap to imply intangible melodies that don’t necessarily exist. This method creates the ideal backdrop for the two-part, superbly blended male/female vocals that propel the entire album.
“Cowboys In The Void” tells you all you need to know about Quilt. The snarky guitar line that anchors the song is undeniable, with a firm yet remote backbone of drums. It leads into a quicker-paced middle section, dominated by a nearly indecipherable yet entrancing, cult-like chant. This break devolves back to the central lick, offering no opportunity to forget it even as the vocals return to the infectious chant.
The rest of Quilt reworks, but never repeats, the same formula with different variables. While the band elected to forgo one of its strongest assets -- the beguiling mesh of guitars -- for a banjo on a few tracks, they demonstrate compositional precision and restraint throughout the album. At their worst, Quilt echoes the exhausted traits of a certain non-genre that has duped our impressionable college town. At their best -- at which they operate through the vast majority of this album -- they persuade you not to care.
Photo courtesy of Quilt
About Mike -- I am a journalism student at Emerson College getting ready to graduate in December. I've done investigative work for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and covered beats in Bridgewater and Dorchester, but my passion is music. When I'm not blurring the line between obsession and enjoyment while listening to Pavement or Bruce Springsteen, I'm punching walls over the Celtics. Twitter: @mikeflanagan2.
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