Stalled is an indie band based in Chicago, IL with Jack Curtin (guitar/vocals/bass/mellotron) and Jonah Murray (percussion/Korg MS-20). Another pandemic band, the duo got started after their previous band Sci-Fi Sleep Cycles dissolved. After the release of their first single “Governor’s Dodge/Off Kilter” on October 2020, the band returns with a new EP Blank Conduct that incorporates a noise/quiet/noise dynamic as the band blurs the realms of chaos and order into soundscapes that functions as a mix of alternative shoegaze, post-punk and indie rock.
The band keeps you on your toes, careening from hard to soft at a drop of a hat. Curtin and Murray have created a unique and unexpected sound. Usually at first starting off soft, this changes in tone for a harsher sound that really creeps upon listeners and is like a near ambush. Like a powerful current, audiences will be swept by the ebb and flow of this incredibly dynamic release.
“A Feeling Of Accomplishment” begins with a slow burning almost shoe-gaze-y sound. The soft and hushed notes are really realized here. Curtin’s vocals come in in a near drone. Cutting in and out is a rush of sound that then changes up to more softer notes. The vocals often appear buried in the sound, but this seems to somehow work here. On “Beyond Understanding,” bouncy rhythms and beats right away jut in on the start of this track. Though the music is jaunty and lively with a hard rock flavor, the vocals come in as a drone. Sounding emo and punk rock inspired, the noise level increases, making for an aggressive and hard-hitting sound.
“In Tandem” changes things up for a more shoegaze-y and slow grooving approach. The sauntering rhythms will get listeners swaying to the free-flowing sounds. Guitars and a dancing drumming beat ups the simmering vibe. In a barely audible whisper, the vocals arrive. Again, the instrumentals nearly bury the vocals. This seemed to work here since it made the vocals seem more a part of the ambiance than the focal point. More reverb-drenched guitars add a touch of distortion to the sounds on “No. 7.” The fuzziness levels are at max levels here, as samples coming in and out rough out the edges. The driven indie rock music creates a disorderly feel to the track. Gradually, Curtin’s vocals come in in a stop and go motion. The music seemed more improvised here, heavily leaning on the percussion elements. The hard rock notes dive at an aggressive and edgy sound. The band really jams out here on this hard-hitting closer.
Mixing samples with an often surreal and hazy, atmospheric vibe Stalled melds sections of noise and chaos to perfect an indie rock and post-punk fusion. A delicate balance that the band is able to maintain, they’re painstaking efforts to sculpt a sound from the bottom up shows. Curtin and Murray seamlessly weave from harsh to soft effortlessly, able to ease us into the sounds with assuredness and agile dexterity. Deliberately keeping listeners guessing throughout, if this EP is any indicator, then the band definitely has something worthy of note here. This is a good start and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.
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