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“Gather Wish,” the debut EP from local band High Waters, is neither obvious nor shy

By Pam Kapoor on August 15, 2012

Do they even make records like this anymore?

The debut release of Ottawa-based High Waters (previously incarnated as Life in 2D) embodies the band’s proud defiance of “static genres.” This music falls confidently between rocks – part indie, part classic, part experimental. If you’re desperate for comparisons before taking a listen, think Coldplay meets Hawksley Workman (sorry, High Waters).

A concept album through and through, Gather Wish calls for a top to bottom listen to truly appreciate the musicality and sonic storytelling on offer. This EP is an entertaining ride that mixes strong musicianship with the kind of arc I miss from post-classic rock albums of the 1980s (“Joshua Tree”, anyone?).

Our indoctrination into this experience is “Life in 2D,” a brief teaser of the sort of electronica experimentation to follow in the five full-length tracks.

“The Astrologist”’s 24-bar intro is a compelling throwback to those of rock anthems, a bit reminiscent of U2. Eschewing a formulaic bridge, the track switches from an ethereal section of layered vocals & beats to an epic rock ending.

I can’t tell how important lyrics generally are to this band, but “Scribbles’” are poignant; they’re treated to clean harmonies and a delicious build. Drummer Kyle Woods’ skills are really on showcase here – a steady-but-driving foundation for the melodic & harmonic experimentations going on.

“Transference” is a seamless follow-up, rife with harmonies over driving rhythms. The track meanders through an instrumental second half with synth effects, replete with an R2D2 solo.

Songwriting in “Haunted House” is the closest to pop this EP gets, and features eerie oohs and some of the ‘dream pop’ texture that’s dominating indie rock lately.

“Decrepit,” the EP’s conclusion, is such a successful mash-up of all the above – and the “hypnotic travelogue” on promise – it could well serve as the album’s calling card.

As someone unlikely to happen upon this band on my own, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I appreciate this EP. I’m not enamoured by electronica, but it didn’t put me too off here. That’s likely thanks to the strength of everything else going on.

The musical chops in High Waters are undeniable. But as a singer myself, I can’t help but pay closest attention to vocals. Let me assure you, there is some serious singing happening on this EP: Derek Connely delivers controlled, nuanced & emotive lead vocals that guide the material authoritatively while making nice with all the various other musical elements.

I’ve never been to a High Waters show; it will be interesting to hear how the experimentation & high production of “Gather Wish” translate to a live performance. I suspect it’ll remain at its best cranked up at home. And that’s fine with me.

For more about High Waters and for a preview of the EP, check out their website

 


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