In the three months since Eight Bells’ set at Fall Into Darkness, I’ve seen a number of shows, heard a few dozen new albums and engaged in enough frivolity to make recent memories more than a little blurry. Yet somehow, the 45 minutes of mostly-instrumental prog the Portland trio laid down that night is still as fresh in my mind. It could just be the eminently enjoyable weekend that the festival and the Pacific Northwest provided, or maybe it’s the tightly knotted basslines Haley Westeiner wove together that are still floating in the airspace over Mississippi Studios. Thankfully, the post-SubArachnoid Space project’s full-length debut is here to prove my positive memories are completely warranted.
This is some technical jam sesh-type stuff that gives the same loose vibe that the crew pulled off on that October evening. “Tributaries” is about as straightforward as we’re gonna get, with Chris Van Huffel’s blasts churning like the seascape on the album’s cover as Melynda Jackson pens a three-minute love letter to her delay pedal. It’s a cool single-length jam to draw you in until the next three proceed to turn your expectations all sorts of directions. The title track is the obvious centerpiece here, jumping the gun with psych-rock meets Don Cab playfulness until a mid-song excursion takes us to the outer realms of droning one note bass and buzzsaw echoes. Just when you can’t take it anymore, Van Huffel and Westeiner explode into a cavalcade of fills and bass drops. Then it gets even quieter, with Westeiner tapping out her most gorgeous work on the album. Dynamics, people.
The Captain’s Daughter is a record you’ll listen to a good fives times over and still be taken for a spin by that-one-part-you-forgot about. Like Westeiner’s vocals appearing out of nowhere on “Fate and Technology.” That’s where the “instrumental when we feel like it” identity hits. Billy Anderson’s production is so intimate we can hear Westeiner’s voice quiver as she sings “Somehow I am on / Your plate through the magic of / Fate and technology.” Then FX’ed out guitar explode into merciless psych metal and we’re back to expecting the unexpected. Keep Portland weird, indeed, Ms. Jackson.
Stream “Fate & Technology” for the first time below.