The Shadow Companion
Independent release, 2011
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/02/2011
The Defog could make a bad record. But it will still be worth, if nothing else, a solid praise for its uniqueness, for this band from Philadelphia sounds like no one else. The group’s style of blending quirky keyboard sounds – part The Doors, part The Charlatans UK, and part Stereolab – with elegantly arranged and sincerely performed folk music is like no one else’s. Add to it the very distinctive vocals of the very fervid lead vocalist Charles Stieg, and the band’s signature style is incomparable to anyone else.
For The Shadow Companion, the band charts the same course as their brilliant 2006 release Ebb And Flow. The Shadow Companion is true to The Defog’s nature in full form, with its meticulously clean sound, which is just what is required to portray the band’s rich and elaborate sound in its full glory.
The Shadow Companion, however, is a darker effort by the band. But “dark” to The Defog doesn’t apply the same way as it might apply to any other band; it is strictly relative. Apart from the divinely charming “Clouds On Fire” and the follow up “Kaleidoscopes,” none of the other tracks on The Shadow Companion have the innocently charming sound, which has been an integral part of the facet of the band’s personality that is rooted in folk music. As a result, this album isn’t as deeply rooted in acoustic music. Electronics and all sorts of keyboard sounds make up the bulk of the disc’s identity.
The “dark and disturbed” mood in The Defog’s vocabulary translates to the melancholic, of which there is plenty on The Shadow Companion. The almost eight minute long “Panic Attack” with a din of city sounds polluting the music, which constantly goes through tempo changes is a song where the melancholia actually borders on distress, which in true “The Defog” style, still sounds cordial.
The album’s moody sound has a lot to do with its predominant electronic sound, which is minimalistic. There are no doubt moments of luxuriance, but the keyboards mostly are robotic and sparse. But this doesn’t compromise band’s soulfulness a wee bit. The result, as evident on the album’s most electronic cuts “Drawing Pictures” and “Thistle Stitched,” is a touching hybrid of sadness and beauty. And the band delivers this somber concoction of moods as if it was rightfully ordained by the powers above.