The Madison/Janesville band has completed its long-awaited second album. Stream the title track here.
Double Ewes is a band of sonic contradictions, but they know better than to force things. When the Madison/Janesville trio pairs a twangy guitar/vocal loop with swirling atmospheres and ticking electronic hi-hats—as on “Leave The Dance (With The Girl You Brought),” from their 2014 self-titled debut album—it doesn’t create a sense of clashing contrast. These elements are finessed together until a harmonious if unlikely meeting point occurs, and that takes patience.
Over the past few years Double Ewes have been gradually reconfiguring how they do things, as they explained to Tone Madison in early 2016. Whilden Hughes (guitar, vocals), Max Jewer (bass), and Jeremy Nealis (synthesizers) all pull double duty to some extent or other, wrangling interconnected sequencers and samplers. That could have made things more rigid, what with everyone hooked into the same MIDI clock. “We’re just kind of locking everything together into this giant brain,” as Jewer explained last year.
Instead, their second album, Dead Furrow, due out later this fall, only expands the sense of openness and possibility in the band’s music. It finds a lot of new space for things that might not quite have fit into that first album, from more aggressive beats to higher dimensions of pillowy ambience.
The title track, second on the album, could be a companion of sorts to “Leave The Dance (With The Girl You Brought).” It starts with a warm and chunky guitar loop and uses that as the spine for an array of sounds that trail in and out—a handful of gentle synth patches, a pleasantly throbbing bass, and varying levels of reverb on Hughes’ voice, from subtle to dubbed-out, lyric-obscuring bursts. (The only lyrics one can easily make out are a recurring phrase, “Life takes most of my time.”) The song clocks in under four minutes, but moves through what feels like a complex sequence of gently coasting passages and rumbling outbursts. At the edges of the mix, the occasional sound of birds calling or muttered conversation lends a bit of grit to the track, thanks in part to Wood Chickens drummer Justin Johnson, featured here as well as on several other tracks on the record.
It won’t necessarily surprise fans of Double Ewes’ first album that Dead Furrow wanders all over the map, but here they’re pulling that off in much bolder fashion. The album just sounds richer all over the spectrum—the bass parts have an assertive rumble, the higher vocal and synth parts have plenty of headroom. The band is also simply more willing to get loud and weird, as they demonstrate on the short “Quarantine,” and to delve into full-on psych territory, especially with the nimble bass-guitar melodies and flickering synths of “Gobeckli.” The sonic heft of the album says a lot about the meticulous work all three members are doing, and to the skill Jewer brought to mixing and mastering the album. The record also features contributions throughout from The Minotaurs drummer Dan Ledger and Wood Chickens guitarist/Minotaurs bassist Alex Reilly. (I don’t know if the auxiliary players on the record were hooked into the brain or not.)
For now, you can give “Dead Furrow” a listen here; the band will release additional singles next week and the week after, and hopefully will announce a firm release date and some live shows soon.