At this point in time, it feels as if all directions of metal have been exhausted. But fortunately, the envelope continues to be pushed when it is least expected. The heavy distortion of sludge metal, dreamy soundscapes of shoegaze, and the effect-laden riffs of alternative space rock have all individually and equally captured audiences and the culture of rock/metal experimentation. Coming from the streets of Brooklyn, New York, a small band emerges and dares to mix these genres together to form one hell of a concoction.
Spotlights, a result from the married couple of bassist/vocalist Sarah and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Mario Quintero, execute a meeting of the above styles in their debut full-length album Tidals via Crowquill Records. As many have yet to indulge in this duo's music, their production team connections are certain to further one's intrigue. When both members formerly performed as Sleep Lady, their 2012 album So Long Lonely Ghost was produced by Aaron Harris of Isis. As for this LP, all six tracks are mastered by Brad Boatright known for his work with Fucked Up, Mutoid Man, and Nails. I will say that this material does not extend to as dynamic extremes as these groups, but rather tease their abilities to reach such heights.
While the short instrumental opener piece is quite the trip, "Walls" is straight-up fever dream music. The smooth flow within a wall-of-sound territory made for a fully immersive quality. On "The Grower," an army of down-tuned grooves as thick as a Sleep song are coated in My Bloody Valentine psychedelia. I would say this exact aspect is what separates Spotlights from your common sludge/stoner rock/metal bands. In a world of many sludge-inspired bands, the slight melodic, progressive tidbits allow for a less monotonous experience. Continuing to "Hover" and "To the End," this notion is extended with an excellence in rhythmic variety. By far the most atmospheric, "Joseph" provides a gentle touch to end the record.
With my desire to recommend this project to others, I have difficulty in fully describing the sound of Spotlights accurately. They lack the aggression of the stereotypical sludge or post-metal groups while summoning a fair share of dissonance exceeding the average post-rock or shoegaze band. Although not fully embracing these genres, the duo provides the closest depiction of what the epicenter of all four would be. As far as I'm concerned, these genres haven't quite met middle ground like the music on this record. If I had to toss up other bands in order to construct some form of an identity, I would say they are the levelheaded and more romantic version of Isis in a more atmospherical sense similar to Arctic Sleep with tendencies of the Melvins ranging to Smashing Pumpkins.
Maybe it's the fact that something so simple and brilliant was birthed from someone not yet well known that allows this release to possess an astounding first impression. Most of those who listen all the way through this record will understand where I come from when I state Tidals is one of a kind. Spotlights undoubtedly have the potential to grow larger and this debut is a clear example of where to begin. As much as I enjoyed the journey this music evokes, the overall sensation I received was that of an EP instead of a fully fledged album. With praise comes criticism and while I personally felt the band's identity slowly became concrete, it did not exactly reach a peak. What this release represents is the foundation and capacity of a new band and I truly am curious and eager to see how the duo brings the wow-factor in further records.