Review: Scanlines, 'Scanlines' EP 

click to enlarge Scanlines, S/T - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Scanlines, S/T
  • Submitted Photo

Bands that have the firepower to deliver the goods in full sans vocals or lyrics are a rare breed. I'm not certain how to quantify just how rare it is, but probably 1 in 1,000 - hell, 1 in 10,000 may be more accurate - play with enough personality and musicianship to draw the listener in and never make her feel like a void exists that needs filling. On their self-titled debut EP (recorded and co-engineered by Andy Fry and Drew Malott at Indy's recently closed Queensize Studio in March of 2013), Indianapolis trio Scanlines are one of those exceptional bands that fit the bill.

Formed out of the dissolution of Slothpop, Drew Malott (bass), Dan Zender (guitar) and Bryan Unruh (drums, keyboard) started Scanlines by playing together for hours, often improvised, while embracing post-rock and shoegaze as primary influences. Scanlines recorded an abundance of material.

Over the course of seven deeply compelling and quite thrilling tunes on the debut, Scanlines use masterstrokes to paint a vivid, visceral world without uttering a word. That's the beauty of instrumental rock when it's done right: rather than being told what to feel, the listener gets the chance to tell her own stories against the settings the band is unveiling. In reality, that should be the product of any enriching music, but the effect can often be even more personal when the only voice the listener hears is the one in her head. I've never been a fan of the genre classifier of "post-rock," but if mentioning that term helps explain what to expect from Scanlines' craft, understand Scanlines shows these guys can already hang with any of your favorite post-rockers.

Malott, Zender and Unruh pile on layer after layer of technical dexterity with a commanding sense of melody across the board, whether it's presented with gentle pacing and ruminative spirit such as during the majority of the EP's homestretch of "Halo," "Awake Before Noon" and "How About Now" or on the up-tempo grooves and bombast of "Transmission," closer "Semaphore" and "Cthulhu." Opener "October 15" is an all-out dazzler that takes its time unfolding with Zender's captivating guitar work before thundering towards the heavens on the shoulders of the Malott and Unruh's rhythm section. It captures Scanlines doing shades of everything they do best throughout the EP, and it sets the tone for what sorts of instrumental harmonies, dynamic changes and tension will follow.

Often volatile and unfailingly sublime, Scanlines is an arresting debut that is so tight at its core and so confidently realized that the end result is a consistent sense of awe for the listener and an implicit understanding that any lyrics would just get in the way. Not only are Scanlines a band to watch, but it's both exciting and tough to try to imagine what they might do next time around that could top this offering. This is a journey well worth taking that will reward handsomely with energy invested.

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Justin Wesley

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