Ebb And Flow

The Defog

Independent release, 2006


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


The Defog has the soul of a struggling folk musician from New York but the heart of a prog-rock band from a couple decades ago, and are either too sophisticated to be the former or too sane to fit the latter type. The second full-length release from this quartet from Philadelphia, Ebb And Flow is a sensitive singer-songwriter’s most vivid imaginations come true.

The Defog has a lo-fi indie sound dominated by kitschy sixties-styled keyboards that is used to perfection on this record. “The Accidents” is minimal yet very futuristic and infectiously rhythmic in a Radiohead sort of a way, where the keyboard sounds are toy-like and metallic. Whereas “Challenger Deep” and “Oscillator: Pheromones” have a lush, pastoral sound and the keyboard is rich in a sixties psychedelic way. On “Ashes And Leaves,” the keyboard provides a lo-fi indie sound, but (during the keyboard solo) on “Automation,” it rises to stadium-rock level that shamelessly shows off its pomposity, though its nonetheless captivating.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Singer Charles Stieg has the yearning that every folk singer aspires for, and sings like an angel. His voice strikes the fine balance between being vulnerable and not getting too puppy-faced. He might be a pretty boy with an acoustic guitar in his hands, but he has the dignity of a grunge singer. A quick listen to “Solo Cell (Battery),” and Stieg will melt your heart like hot chocolate on a frigid winter day – the beauty is not just the warmth in his vocals, but also the feeling of comfort it brings.

As much as The Defog’s sound is influenced by the keyboards, it is equally inspired by the earthiness of folk music. And with a voice like Stieg’s, this inspiration has enough requisites to conjure divine folk tunes. The two chief cuts on the record, “Country Song” and “A Blink Remembered,” are the folkiest the band could get. The dreamy vocals, haunting guitars, and the sheer simplicity of these numbers show that this band has a range, and as the elegance of these numbers shows, an ear for perfection, too.

The Defog is every bit as refreshing as a new act full of promise can be. It has the “awe factor” that an occasional new-comer would bring to the music world with a sound that’s truly original and completely mind-blowing. Ebb And Flow might be just a self-release by an unknown act in search of a record deal, but it sure is an indie classic.

Rating: A

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