“Conduits” by Conduits | Album Review

photo by Daniel Muller

[Editor's note: This review previews Conduits' show tonight at O'Leaver's with The So-So Sailors. The concert starts at 9:30 p.m. and costs $5. This Thursday, Conduits begins a month-long tour starting in Iowa City, Iowa, with Cursive and Cymbals Eat Guitars.]

by Samuel Segrist

A young artist once asked his father who was also a painter for advice on how to advance his craft. The father pondered the question for a while before responding, “Paint the same tree a thousand times.” True artistry, the father implied, comes from attempting to capture the same subject in as many ways as possible.

The subject Omaha-based band Conduits has chosen on each and every track of their self-titled debut is one of the dreamscape. Each song is a response to the question, “How can we write a groovy, hazy, intoxicating, ethereal and somewhat menacing song that exists on that liminality between waking and dreaming?”

Whether they’re rocking out or grooving on a chill beat, they always sound like they’re on a windswept stage in the desert at dusk, blasting away while the sun descends behind the band, bathing them in the reddish glow akin to a Martian sunset.

Most songs begin with a solitary drone that calls to mind a church organ upon which the band methodically and slowly introduces intricate levels of instrumentation. It is a rich tapestry of tremulous reverb-drenched guitars courtesy of J.J. Idt and Nate Mickish, tribal beats by Roger Lewis, pulsing basslines by Mike Overfield and ambient keyboard drones by Patrick Newberry. The finishing touch is the haunting vocals of Jenna Morrison.

At times, there is a Celtic quality to her voice that's reminiscent of Sinéad O'Connor, or even Enya, on album closer “Well,” one of the stand-out tracks. Over a moody vibrato guitar strum, Morrison calls out a fickle lover with the indictment, “Your loyalty lies with your appetite.” This track features the slowest burn of rising-and-falling action in the build-up of tension before the eventual explosive release. It is refreshing to hear a band willing to take their time getting to the payoff in order to make the climax that much sweeter. Fans of the melancholy majesty of Sigur Ros or Mew will find much to enjoy on this track.

Other tracks such “Fish Mountain” feature the descending guitar work and fast-paced drum patterns of late ’90s Radiohead before the song makes a sudden turn halfway into a heavy and slinky groove of riffs with Morrison’s siren wail trading off with skronky guitars bending the fretboard all kinds of ways from here to eternity. Other tracks such as “On the Day” feature Morrison using her voice like an instrument, repeating her melody with an aching lilt over and over again until the song fades away, much like the early guitar riffs of Starflyer 59.

From beginning to end, these eight tracks make up one of the strongest local debuts in awhile. It is rare to hear a band sound so fully formed, confident and consistent in their musical vision so early in their career. Featuring members of Eagle Seagull, Son Ambulance, The Good Life and Spring Gun, the band dovetails their experiences well. One of the strengths of the band is how they successfully maintain a strong sense of mood and atmosphere without sacrificing the forward momentum of rhythm. Here is to them making another 992 more sound paintings.

Samuel Segrist is a Hear Nebraska contributor. He plays in the band Dude Won't Die, which will be releasing its album on March 30. Reach him at samuels@hearnebraska.org.