Split releases are sometimes billed as a face-off between two bands, with reviewers often feeling the need to single out which artist “won” the split and offered up the better half. But splits are a collaborative effort, a chance for two bands who share a somewhat similar sound or ethos to bring their fans together and provide some quality music along the way. This latter approach is very much present on the new release from Rhode Island’s Obaku and Minnesota’s Without, set to drop at the beginning of next month on the fantastic Tridroid Records.
Expansive and engaging, this split isn’t just the usual brief glimpse at two bands’ sounds – it’s a gripping, affecting journey, spanning just two tracks but a full 53 minutes. The two artists’ styles share a proclivity for restraint, and thus the ability to build tension, with both borrowing from the otherworldly realms of drone and post-metal. The only way in which these two tracks try to outdo each other is in their vast scope, but it is together that they reach a much higher plain of exploratory majesty.
Obaku’s opener, ‘Ringing Plain’, is minimalist, with sparse percussion and snail-paced guitar progressions building a horizonless soundscape that’s bolstered by mournful synths. Hearing the track unfurl before you is a rich voyage, one that’s truly enveloping and capable of wading in a variety of emotions, be it the mournful guitar passages or anxiety-inducing bouts of ominous distortion. Even if the chiming high-string notes are to be considered hopeful in tone, then they’re always swiftly dragged back to earth by the uneasy dread of the menacing low-end tolling like a church bell.
Whilst ‘Ringing Plain’ is a reflective piece, forcing you to look inwards, Without’s offering is altogether more transcendent, it’s shoegazey and psychedelic flavourings suddenly injecting the release with a grander narrative. It’s easy to see how these tracks compliment each other, with the lush soundscapes of ‘Thaw/Flood’ steadily building on the opener’s more grounded but no-less experimental approach. It is similarly sombre, but embedded in these passages is a sense of wonder built with shimmery synths and expressive keys. At times, it is soothing, at others it’s menacing – the soaring vocals either alleviate like cool water on a burn or merge with the instrumentals to bolster the ethereal disquiet. Often weaving in and out of the music behind them, the effective use of such vocals is exemplative of just how carefully constructed this music is.
Finding ourselves blown away by the music, we jumped at the chance to give you your first glimpse of this cinematic new EP. Scroll on to check out sections of both tracks, and be sure to check out the cassette release on Tridroid’s Bandcamp page.
The Obaku/Without split is out July 1st on Tridroid Records. Pre-order here.
Words: George Parr