An eerie twittering reverb welcomes you into the arms of Empath’s newest single, ‘Passing Stranger’, should you choose to accept the embrace. Hailed for the genre-bending psychedelia within their debut album: ‘Active Listening: Night on Earth’, it should come as a surprise to no one that once again you cannot quite place the feelings that Empath’s music presents you with.
There’s a snag of the hi-hat that is reminiscent of a sharp intake of air, the kind taken when emerging from beneath ice cold water, or one that accompanies a wincing ‘swear-beneath-your-breath’ kind of pain. In the press release for their upcoming album, ‘Visitor’, Empath stated that the beat “was inspired by druggy Velvet Underground drums”, but I cannot help but hear some Kate Bush within it’s momentum and movement.
The repetitive reverb rings true with their horror inspirations, my mind being drawn to that noise like a swarm of locusts fading in and out of focus that soundtracks Alex Garland’s 2018 film ‘Annihilation’, not necessarily in tone but in how the sound is designed to travel through you.
Catherine Elicson presents us with Philadelphia’s response to Ellie Rowsell (Wolf Alice), both balancing between the bold and the breathy, capable of blending into their instrumental surroundings or standing apart from it with a jagged dissonance that makes their voice into punctuation – almost a part of the percussion. The lyricism is nostalgic and poignant, the pain and loss that comes with the introspection at the younger self:
“When you go back you can’t unsee and remembering is like pulling up weeds, but you’re laid in the grass trying to think you say to yourself, you know you got to believe you’re right.”
Soft keys repeat some small jingling lullaby of a tune that sticks throughout the entire piece, there’s something familiar about it on the tip of your tongue as you listen. It fizzles into the background only to allow the synth and guitar to truly launch into a state of pure seventeen-year-old angst; messy and volatile, but played with true intention. There’s a crackle down the end of the line as the song hangs up on you, and we’re all still hanging on the end of the phone. What are we listening for? What comes next? Maybe we’ll find out on February 11th.
Photo by Marie Lin