4 May 2017
Dulls - Moon Violet
Reviewed by Joseph Murphy.
On last year’s self-titled debut (reviewed here), Philadelphia’s Dulls took a lighter touch to both their shoegaze and alternative-era leanings; they preferred, it seemed, to let space between voicings develop the theme throughout. But on this year’s Moon Violet, the band puts guitar-centered hooks at the forefront, channeling their grittier predecessors of the DIY genres – even with standout-track, “New Dream,” which, in other hands, might be a slow-burner but builds, here, to a dense pay off in the chorus that’s deserving of an angry sing-along. Moon Violet is another promising step for Dulls, exploring similar terrain as their debut while taking a few risks along the way – perhaps, in part, thanks to recording and mixing by John Ceparano of The Stargazer Lilies, whose own albums value similar balances between lush passages and the very human slide of the fingers across guitar strings.
The opening track, “View,” feels familiar from the start: a single guitar, lightly reverbed though heavily strummed through the progression. The result – when the whole band comes in – refuses to crowd the song with pummel and force, rather Dulls extends the simplicity, whether through a few accent leads or a tight rhythm; further still, when the layers drop away for the verse, the space left behind still hums with strength of the intro. This serves as the model for Dulls: lean all the way in and pull back to give perfect contrast.
Both releases from Dulls have been short, but, in so few songs, the band has proven their careful consideration, curating each release to their format (in both cases, cassette) and their ideal listeners, ones looking for mature reflections of legendary acts that still resonate – and maybe more so now – and conversations with those long-standing musical heroes. Perhaps four songs is the perfect tactile experience for listening, creating a balance and natural split. This level of consideration is somehow imbued in both releases; both feel meticulously plotted while still embracing the nuances of each musician’s contributions.
“Moon Violet” is available digitally or on limited-edition cassette below. This one just gets better with every listen. So, let it play through again; any good tape deck will do.