Saturday, February 18, 2012
Album Review: Ivy Garden of the Desert - "Docile"
If you're gonna bring the fuzz, you'd better understand audiences can sift through bullshit and easily determine whether it's being used as a sonic sidecar to proficient songwriting or if you needed something to mask an otherwise weak sound. Ivy Garden of the Desert are a trio from Northern Italy who don't lay it on too thick and certainly don't rely on crust to carry their sound through wondrous expanse. Sure, you'd love to have a band like this guide you through a dusty pass, though they'd rather give you a bird's eye float over gaping canyons.
Docile is the first in a triptych of EP's being released by the band, with themes of admitted secrecy, deep thought, and freedom strongly highlighted. The four tracks move from gentle spook and sun-drenched stoner rock to southern pluck and riff-dominated fuzz. The result is 38 minutes of exhausting breadth, packed with enough passion to make other bands sound like they should return to their day jobs.
Ivy sets on with haunted, fleeting guitar blips intertwined with creeping string clasps. Andrea's drums pace and loom, almost anxiously fish-eyeing the cool, rolling jam that's setting up camp. But don't get comfortable; this jam evolves, the skins get their moment in the sun, and the payoff of Desert Cruiser-esque fuzz blasts driving guitars and Ivy Garden of the Desert pull themselves from the mossy terra. The song soars, dodges in-between trees, takes one look back and enters the cool, patient clear of a thick jam. Rhythms lay down, but groove remains the focus with an unrelenting guitar whirlwind.
Entering a spacy, hollow warble, the album moves to Enchanting Odyssey, a track with quite a name to live up to. Stick taps set a savvy concentration for the drowned guitar roll as distorted licks zip from east to west. We first hear Diego's Reef-ish vocals here, low and focused as anything you heard in the early 90's. His voice is met with Paolo's bass bounce and creates a forever-cool welcoming vibe. But Diego's guitar returns to strike, barb, and pluck at those pensive tempos. His guitar is emotionally set apart from the low-end drums and bass, though all elements keep in stride with one another. This is an enchanting odyssey indeed; a swirling storm of shifting gears, humming bass, and dropped fuzz in a cramped, smoky green room.
A quiet dance with ether characterizes Hang Glider's slow ease and French countryside strings. Diego's at his smoothest here, drifting in with vocals and claiming "Time has stopped... and this is not a dream." Scurrying bongos add to the song's organic and primal tingle, further pulling out any pretense on an already to-the-bone aura. Diego's guitar is proficient, hand-me-down picking, stripped and perhaps more effective than anything else on the EP.
Returning to heavy, I closes the album on less a shift in atmosphere and more a shift of entire tectonic plates. Diego's croak is creepy, hovering above a low-rolling bass crawl on dried leaves. Guitars receive a rusty, industrious hand-tuning as the track unfolds amazingly, crafting an ominous countenance. Scratch back these layers and you're only met with further wandering sounds, marching in and leaving their mark. Riffs ascend a muddy hill, lose their footing, and tumble straight toward a wall of lint. That fuzz, though never here overdone, is reliable and expertly placed as a near-punctuation, poking holes in a weathered stoner-roll canvas. Reverb hums, drums enter a realm all their own, and dials get twisted as guitars are given their final breath. Looks like this track struck every chord.
If Docile is only the first in a series of three EP's, and those three EP's serve as a precursor to a full-length, Ivy Garden of the Desert have quite a standard to meet. These four tracks provide listeners more technical proficiency, accomplished timing, and deeply moving songwriting than many bands can pull off on an epic, studio-polished, label-backed LP. The fuzz never drowns, the rhythm never stalls, and the songs never disappoint. Perhaps that's the key to enjoying success in a band. Forget the excess, leave egos at the door, and focus on the sound. Ivy Garden of the Desert seem to have it pretty-well figured out.
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