The Slow Signal Fade – Through the Opaque Air EP

The Slow Signal Fade
Through the Opaque Air EP

Among all of the revivalist post-punk bands of the early 21st century, it’s particularly rewarding to discover new groups still at the stage before the big break, playing and singing with tremendous passion and ambition. LA’s The Slow Signal Fade is one such entity. What’s especially attractive about this quartet is that no one dominates the listening experience and resigns any other band member to a lesser role. The synergy comes to life with each note, and the bandmates, split 50/50 along gender lines, perform as if they’re most satisfied when playing and singing together. The Slow Signal Fade’s latest EP, Through the Opaque Air, is a thrilling collection of six songs that range from early 80s post-punk to early 90s shoegazer paradise.

The EP opens with “Funny Runner,” featuring the dark, menacing guitar of Ron Ulicny, whose sonic swirls mesmerize the ears and mind without vocals for almost a minute. Drummer Christy Greenwood and bassist Chris Walters dictate the rhythm deliberately, with a hint of warm steel. If not for Marguerite Olivelle’s singing, “Funny Racer” would fit comfortably in any of Joy Division’s three studio albums. Olivelle possesses a strong voice, and it sounds eerily like a more talented Alanis Morissette singing with Sinead O’Connor’s patience and passion.

“Get a Glimpse” proceeds at roughly the same pace as “Funny Runner,” but it definitely lies deeper in shoegazing territory, with the bass and drums so measured, so effective in controlling the tension. Olivelle belts out higher notes here over longer spans, her ethereal approach floating somewhere between Siouxsie Sioux and Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. “A Little Vaccine” is edgier, with a faster pace and chopping bass lines. There is less guitar reverb on the track as compared to its predecessors on the EP, and Olivelle sings with greater verbal clarity. The song finds The Slow Signal Fade letting loose somewhat, pounding its drums and slashing the guitar riffs.

“Push Pull Push” marks the band’s return to more pensive melodies and greater space between drum beats. Ulicny’s stunning guitar work recalls The Cure’s “Pictures of You.” The guitar effects – echoes, delays, reverb – ensure that “Push Pull Push” could combine with “Pictures of You” without anyone thinking the songs were composed separately. “Summon the Painter” has more great guitar tricks, though Olivelle’s cries are a bit over the top, but it’s not a bother.

Through the Opaque Air closes with the catchy, heavily percussive “Backstroke.” The song is almost eight minutes of exhilarating, instantly memorable and hooking post-punk a la The Chameleons, with some Swervedriver allusions thrown in at the end. It’s an excellent way to end a dynamite EP that’s generous in time (average song length is six minutes) and overflowing with talent, intrigue, and gorgeous multi-dimensional soundscapes.