At its early 2014 release, Rye Pines’ Portrait of Dissonance as Young Man braved just as many guitar hooks as right-handed punches to the gut. Duo Edward Maguire and Alex Page worked their collaboration like a powerhouse, delivering 12 songs flush with restrained chaos, rocky Midwestern vibes and the slightest touch of oddballism. This past February, the Boston-based outfit came back once again with Dead Oceans, a dynamic 6 track EP with exactly the kind of jagged energy we hoped for.
Dead Oceans kicks off with “Death,” a deviant foundation of crashing symbols and riffy guitars that build thunderously upon one another until their climatic, white-knuckled end. At a whopping 53 seconds, it’s a funny start, a snippet of audio that teases listeners and leaves them questioning their footing less than a minute after pressing play.
While searching for our sea legs, we catch a glimpse of the horizon through the twisted lens of “Limbo Shuffle,” a happy-go-lucky tune that, with time, isn’t so happy at all. Like the trickery of introduction, the track pays salutation with upbeat chords and carefree whistles that quickly dissolve into scuffling apathy while Maguire nods to Issac Brock through a portrait of demon dogs, digital Moses, and Purgatory’s mediocre cocktails. Ties to ’90s Issaquah don’t just run lyrically, but audibly, too. Somewhere between bleeding into the earth and uploading his soul to heaven, Maguire lays echoing yelps against a background of oscillating instrumentals that mirror the airy Modest Mouse soundscapes we’ve deemed synonymous with bending guitar strings and volatile percussion. In just over two minutes, these layers come together to arrange a bizarre story that flirts with our distracted concept of Heaven and Hell. A notion slipped into our consciousness like Jesus through the doors of a rock ’n’ roll square dance, as the music crumbles to a close.
The wake continues from one track to the next, tying hostility with weathered New England imagery, a whirl of ebbing vocals and driving percussion that sink the band into a pummeling undertow. Running through the eye of the storm is “Drone Tone,” an eight-minute jam cruising the unpredictable waters of placid ripples turned hellish high water. A standout track for sure, one alluding to the band’s ability to make us feel everything from maniacal to anxious to—frankly, downright pissed. It’s the end of this drone that knocks us down with barreling ferocity, the kind of vocals best imagined with spit, sweat, salty tears, and drops of blood in water.
From its opening grievance to one final, damning tune, Dead Oceans surrenders outside tribulations to remarkably fit against our own. This, as we watch Maguire and Page carve out their niche in an arena of countless noteworthy acts. In just six tracks, the duo has given us a collection of anxieties to lean against, something to make us feel the warmth of discord after months standing out in the cold.
Dead Ocean by Rye Pines