August is the best month of the year, not only because it’s my birthday month, …
Neo-psychedelic rockers Shadowgraphs make visual music. The meticulously layered and nuanced sounds are piled piece by piece, creating a comprehensive visceral experience. Unsurprisingly, one of the founding members, Bryan Olson, is an internationally known collage artist whose work has been featured in numerous spaces and publications – which, along with co-founder Charles Glade, may explain the group’s predilection toward altered-state soundscapes.
2015’s Return to Zero EP put the North Carolina-based group on the map with the album’s lauded critical reception. Return to Zero showcased Glade and Olson’s ability to dig into vintage sounds (think ‘70s-era psych rock, soul, etc.) and emerge with a personalized élan that pushed those sounds in new directions. Raw, but still cohesive and coherent, Return to Zero’s six-track-run introduced a band with miles of conceptual fields to mine.
Venomous Blossoms (2017) successfully explores new patches of musicianship and imagery, while still maintaining the core sympathies of the group’s earlier work. Similarly dreamy, Venomous Blossoms is polished and well-executed. The album was recorded on a 24-track tape machine, lending an even greater feeling of stacked sounds and tones that slide in and out throughout the record. Unlike Return to Zero, though, Venomous Blossoms doubles down on the sonic variety – each track, while loosely following the neo-psych rock flavor, explores a different instrumental facet.
“Hit of the Truth” is built on a repetitive bass riff, laying a foundation for mixed vocals and spacey guitar lines to float above. Opener “Countryside” is clean and focused, marked by sharp percussion and a more traditional structure with driving guitar lines that hit unpredictable major/minor tweaks. “Scarlet Tunic” borrows the snare-driven punky percussion style to create a more bombastic pace, accompanied by crunchy guitars and a very Doors-esque keys compliment. Album closer “Bossa Supernova” is a trippy groover that goes full bossa nova with the bongo rhythms and light saxophone accompaniment.
With Venomous Blossoms, it’s clear that Shadowgraphs has the ability to play the field, and they know it. The ranging influences are executed with style and confidence, and it all comes together as an excellent sophomore effort from a band with plenty of room to grow.
Catch Shadowgraphs live at the Analog Cafe & Theater on Tuesday, June 20 with support from PWRHAUS and Patti Mayo. Tickets are available here.