In October of last year, Exitmuisc’s first release, the EP From Silence, made a respectable splash in the blog-pond. The four tracks were bursting with cathartic energy delivered by Aleksa Palladino’s over-the-top vibrato, and the massive ravines separating chorus from verse; every minute or so, four Gs of acceleration were followed by a plunge into quiet. There was a bit of variety – “The Hours” took things more slowly – but each track retained every gram of soaked-through studio production. There was danger in that homogeneity, but Exitmusic still sounded exciting, or at least, interesting in the way that most neo-shoegaze-y bands sound interesting.
Seven months later we have Passage, the band’s debut full-length. It begins with some of the same auspiciousness that pegged From Silence as worth a listen; those months were spent honing a specific aesthetic to narrow sharpness, and as with the earlier release, the songs here tread what sounds like very familiar ground. Even if it isn’t – even if Exitmusic manage to write wholly original melodies and capture something totally their own on these songs – the whitewash of reverb and distortion obscure it. For the most part, if you’ve heard one Exitmusic song, you’ve heard them all. “Passage” has big drums and a dose of engineered beats; Palladino’s vocals are digitally mangled and beaten down. There’s plenty of emotion, though, and no one could accuse Exitmusic of lacking melodrama. Turning melodrama into pathos, though, is difficult work, and it gets harder when words turn into underwater garbles. You can make out the “Christ on the cross as it’s illustrated” in “White Noise,” but you won’t likely hear “I’m body soft and disintegrated. / I’m in this self half-illuminated. / I’m on the call but it’s distant and faded.” It may be for the best that we can’t hear them, though – if those lyrics seem a little abstract or a little tired, that’s because they are. Stars, light, silence, death, darkness, sky: These are the old tropes Exitmusic exhaust, song after song.
Lead single “The Night” is more promising and more enjoyable, with a discernable melody and a strong vocal loop. It’ll bring to mind Beach House’s “Norway,” or the newer “Lazuli,” but only as a reminder that they truly own that trick. Here, too, the lyrics of a college intro poetry workshop: “If the stars can align all of man with night sky, then why can’t my heart mend the break? / But I’ll love you the same, ‘cause it’s only a dream, and the dreamer is bound to awake.” “The Wanting,” too, offers some hope in its backing vocal effects, which whisper like a chorus of ghosts. Most of these songs would make for a devastating end to an emotionally charged, disturbed album. But ten songs like that in a row?