Extended Play: Recent EPs for Your (Brief) Listening Pleasure
Five shorties on five shorties. Bidip Bo!
To keep things brief: I love EPs. A 7″? Absolutely. A 10″? Oh yeah. A little bitty 5″ picture disc? Yowza. And don’t even get me started on 3″ CDs or CD-R demos or one-sized 12″s. An EP affords you and the band both the opportunity to explore material that demanded releasing but didn’t require the burdensome accoutrement of an entire Long Play (or Standard Play for those ancient readers!) An EP stands on its own, often towering above albums with lengthier run times. Here are a few to get us started. Consider these Minis at your own peril!
A two-piece from Frostburg, Maryand, with a penchant for short EPs featuring blurry photos of tombstones, Seeping is that rare death/doom act that keeps their songs under the 5-minute mark. Even the titular album closer—the most funereal of the four dirges—flies by at a frankly brisk clip. Much of The Watcher, however, feels like an emotive hardcore band (think Dead Hearts) slowed to a crawl in some sort of time dilation accompanied by appropriately cavernous Tomb Mold vocals. Album opener “Confused Exhumation” begins with the same graveyard synths that end “The Watcher,” yet the rest of the track marches forth undeterred by the thickening frost. In a sense, Seeping has stripped Amenra to the shivering bone, leaving nothing but the stark unrest and unease of a cemetery stroll. This is definitely an album for people who usually don’t dig death/doom but want something slow and evocative while not skimping on the riffs.
Zulu, the one-man LA powerviolence wrecking ball helmed by DARE drummer Anaiah Lei, released My People… Hold back in September 2020, a mere year after their debut EP Our Day Will Come. So much happens in barely 9 minutes that it’s hard to imagine what a full length from Zulu might contain. My People… begins with “Blackcurrant,” a poem by Aleisia Miller that is tastefully underscored by a soft piano. In a way befitting the juxtaposition of the EP’s album cover that sets the tenderness and tears of a mother figure’s embrace of a small child against the haunting presence of a police car around the corner, the end of “Blackcurrant” gives way immediately to spastic hardcore that calls to mind early Code Orange, Knocked Loose, and Rival Mob. Samples introduce and interrupt short blasts to create a heady atmosphere of history and the present, of trauma and anger, and of beauty and resilience. For a distillation of what Zulu offers, head to “Straight from da Tribe of tha Moon”: the moment of silence that separates “This is my” from “nightmare” is as poignant and artistic as it is world-shattering and ear-splitting.
“Just a little something from us to you to celebrate the end of this terrible, terrible year.” An evergreen statement if ever there was one. I don’t remember the bandcamping that led me to iamthemorning’s sweet and tender-hearted Counting the Ghosts, but it is a beautiful piece of music to which I keep returning. On standout “cradle song,” wisps of Gleb Kolyadin’s piano flutter along undulating synths while Marjana Semkina’s vocals do much of the work to pay respect to those we have lost and are continuing to lose to COVID-19. For a different feel, “counting the ghosts” introduces a marimba, fretless bass, and guitar in a song that could be a Fiona Apple b-side. “counting the ghosts” has the verve of a pop song but the ghostly eminence of something far dearer and more delicate. “veni veni emmanuel,” a traditional Christian hymn often sung at Advent and Christmas, ends Counting the Ghost on a touchingly reverential note. Be gentle with this album, with yourself, and with others.
Triple B Records has a knack for finding bands that deserve the spotlight, and Move shines bright on this debut EP. Playing ACAB HC from Beantown that’s not dissimilar to Guns Up!, Cruel Hand, or even Incendiary, Move combines a fierce, flagrant energy with a clear-eyed perspective on police violence, class inequity, slumlords, and the privileging of property over people. “Beyond Reform” opens Freedom Dream and sets the tone for a burly brawl. “Who do you protect? What purpose do you serve?” is intoned repeatedly in these opening moments. Don’t ask 12, though, they might huff and puff and stage bogus walkouts. This is an EP begging to be played live, and I hope to get moving with Move in the future.
“Take away love, and our earth is a tomb!” exclaims Robert Browning in “Fra Lippo Lippi.” It is a line you will find plastered all over the internet, often misquoted and stamped onto an inspirational mug. For Chicago’s Our Earth is a Tomb, however, this line, buried as it is one of Browning’s many lengthy dramatic monologues, holds the key to the power as an emotionally raw post-metal band. For reasons more nostalgic than otic, Our Earth is a Tomb reminds me of former Atlanta greats Irreversible, particularly in their ability to take post-metal to its beautiful heights while retaining the feedback-soaked heaviness we all adore. A short interlude separates “missing” from “found,” and while both tracks have their merits (the last few minutes of “found,” in particular, find the band at their absolute darkest), it is “missing” that makes Absentia truly shine. “missing” is a moody and melodic triumph, at once cinematic, cathartic, crushing, and crushed. It is naked and sincere and intimate in ways we should all be with those we love.