I don’t think The Dunes could have picked a better album cover and name for their recent EP entitled BAD:LANDS. It didn’t take much time to get submerged into the depths of these engaging, original soundscapes that made me feel as if I was walking in a vast desert full of bandits, bad news and darkness. The Dunes, which was conceived as a two-piece and later became a five-piece consisting of Stacie Reeves, Matt Reiner, Dan Fernie Harper, Adam Vanderwerf and Jess Honeychurch have a refreshing sound that contorts shoegaze and flirts with various sub-genres.
The three songs sound huge and are layered with thematic residue that makes the songs feel like journeys through a visual simulation rather than a simple pop song. You are first invited into their world with the sprawling “Badlands.” The first thing you hear is the hum of an ominous organ that occasionally goes up a half step. All the while a distant kick surfaces and loose manipulated sounds scatter. It becomes a cohesive, trudging entity that slowly moves forward with a pulsating tom drum.
Once the subdued yet gorgeous female vocals make their existence known I couldn't help but think maybe this is what Portishead would sound like if they just binge watched the entire first season of True Detective. With little warning the band explodes into a visceral purge of sounds at around the three- minute mark. The cymbals crash, synths blare and there was one sound I wasn’t even completely sure what it was. I don’t use the word epic too often but I think this song may deserve the honor.
After being more than impressed by the first track I hit play on the second entitled “End Of The Beginning” while trying not to have my expectations too high. The band delivers again but this time the guitars are more present in the mix and felt a bit more “song” based this time around. I thought the vocal hook was catchy and enjoyed the unique way each phrase was panned slightly differently.
The guitars are gritty, powerful, soaked in reverb and go through a number of badass riffs. It was a great track and on up par with the opener. They close with “A Thousand Crimes (Live Extended Mix),” which while not quite the caliber of the first two tracks but is definitely not one you will want to skip.
BAD:LANDS is a ride that I encourage you to take. The Dunes have carved out a unique niche that defines them as a band. This day and age it may be harder to do that but The Dunes are a testament to the fact that it is possible to stick out in a sea of mediocrity.
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