Some bands are easy to describe. For others, it’s a bit harder to find the requisite vocabulary to capture their sound via text. Snowden is the latter, a fuzzy amalgam of sounds that do their part to defy simple categorization even as they enjoin themselves into the fabric of your soul. They’re an itinerant three-piece from Austin by way of Atlanta and Brooklyn, one that took an extended hiatus between their first and second records. Seven years, actually. In the lean years since releasing Anti-Anti, Jordan Jeffares clearly made use of ample time to hone the intense atmospherics of No One in Control.
The trio takes the stage in front of a sparse crowd at Washington, D.C.’s Rock and Roll Hotel, spread out in a triangle formation with Jeffares stage right. Their drummer looks like a character from HBO’s Real Sex and shows off a talent for the massive snare smash just behind the beat, as required, and metronomic rhythm that propels and provides structure for smooth vocals and spatially expansive synths. It’s mostly mid-tempo melancholy, with passing resemblances to M83‘s most recent (and more uplifting) treatise, its atmospheric builds and releases sure to make it popular bedroom album: Snowden might end up responsible for more kids than Sean Kemp.
Jeffares seems to mainly employ a hollow-body guitar of indeterminate lineage: research seems to indicate its point of origin as the obscure Alabama company Fleur de Lis guitars, even as the the Bigsby unit points toward a Gretsch. With pedals, it’s unclear how much of its unique sound is attributable to the guitar itself, but it definitely has a signature sound. That sound is often overlaid above the bass, synth, and samples deployed stage left, which set a mood over which Jeffares’ vocals flit and float.
There are moments where New Wave meets Shoegaze, but decidedly in the context of 2013. There are others where it’s increasingly up-tempo, pulsating rhythms evoking A Place to Bury Strangers with staccato bass lines. And then he finds a vocal home in that disaffected yet affected space where Youth Group’s vocals briefly distinguished themselves…effectively employing echo on the mic.
In these moments there’s a palpable spaciness which rise and emotively elevate the audience above contemporary time and location. It’s these crystallized clouds of music that are Snowden’s best, the band completely in synch and catharsis washing over everyone in their wake. They’re clearly a band on the rise, one that has found their stride and is confidently striding ahead.
Percussion pounds us and pricks us, alternately parrying and thrusting within the deeply thought-out song structures. Everything is part of the whole. The threesome makes use of their limbs, drummer applying tambourine to cymbal and bassist with one hand on electronics in order to fully flesh out the soundscape. They’re constantly reading each other as they create both analog and electronic ambiance that is rarely the focal point of the composition. That extends to the drum kit, with analog and digital drums interspersed, allowing the live set to retain a fair sense of the production quality native to the studio.
To say that their performance exceeded expectations would be insufficient: it’s a delightful set that should have been enjoyed by many more. There are many highlights: it’s a great record that deserves attention. One lacunae: “Don’t Really Know Me.” In a candid moment after the show, Jeffares reveals some reservations about the song, saying it’s his “most obvious.” Maybe so, but it may also be the record’s best. Even without that gem of a song, it’s fair to say that Snowden’s mix of atmosphere and rhythm is intoxicating, “and that’s exactly why I liked it / and oh how I liked it.”
Upcoming Tour Dates
6/5 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
6/6 – New Orleans, LA – Gasa Gasa
6/7 – Austin, TX – Red 7
6/8 – Dallas, TX – Three Links
6/12 – Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Theatre
6/13 – San Francisco, CA – Brick and Mortar
6/15 – Seattle, WA – Barboza
6/16 – Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre
6/19 – Salt Lake City, UT – Bar Deluxe
6/20 – Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge
6/21 – Lawrence, KS – Granada Theatre
6/22 – Minneapolis, MN – The Sound Gallery
6/23 – Chicago, IL – Green Music Fest
6/24 – Detroit, MI – The Loving Touch
6/25 – Toronto, ON – Drake Hotel
6/26 – Boston, MA – Great Scott
6/27 – Philadelphia, PA – Barbary