Quietly under all the Urban and EDM rummage, the standard of contemporary progressive minded rock albums being made keeps reaching new heights with a handful of bands leading the way in their pursuit of artistic excellence. New York outfit equape is a band well and truly ingrained in the 21st century, creating art rock music resembling a lineage of the juggernaut acts that made rock music history. Their album ‘She Is…’ was inspired by the overlaying of each of the band members personal experiences and events, mostly between 2016-18. Each track completes a sentence, or a thought, of how one’s love is to them. For example… She is Mine, or She is My Woman, or She Is A Purple Here and Now, etc. The overall focus of the album is explained as a sequence of “love, positivity, progress and goodwill to the well-being given by the universe, with moments of earthly innocent lust and melancholy, yet all with good intent.” These overarching themes gives the album drive and purpose and ensures this collection of songs is greater than the sum of its parts.
At the same time however, the strength of individual songs strike a perfect balance between accessible and experimental. The opening track, ‘Mine’, is a sublime exercise in light and shade, the 5 minute epic delivers on every level.
The Pink Floyd-ish ‘The Purple Here And Now’ builds through a slow crescendo before descending and expanding through varying sonic valleys. Individual instruments do not clutter together here, but instead they are left to roam free, giving the album an aura of spaciousness.
This spaciousness is filled with a mood of melancholy, but not in a sense of despair, on ‘A Sleepy Sunday Afternoon’, where Pablo’s voice is no more than a murmur. The songwriting is deliberate and fragile, with the instrumentation often swinging back to a bare minimum, before swelling again, like the gentle ebb and flow of a tide.
By the time we reach ‘Good Morning’, we have fully established that ‘She Is…’ is a winner, full of solid material and musical chops which are inventive and economical at the same time.
In ‘Spinnin’ Stuff’ the emphasis remains on the unpretentious and creation of atmosphere containing moments of controlled energy; a pattern which is at the core of the absorbing and introspective arrangement which flows gently but insistently through its playing time.
Never have equape been able to fascinate more than with this material, and even though songs like ‘My Woman (Reprise)’, ‘One Last Fight’ and ‘For You (Ms. L)’ are accessible, the album takes its time to completely sink in thanks to the presence of sonic depth and intellectual substance.
At 7 minutes long, ‘The Gargantula in C9 Minor’ paints a truly magnificent picture of the extremes of this outfit’s songwriting capacity. Retaining a modest sense of simplicity whilst simultaneously taking a much more expansive direction, this track is really able to offer the full package, acting as a fitting headline for the record.
This being said, what really sets this song apart is the structuring; frequently the instruments are allowed to meld together, forming soundscapes meandering this way and that, as the song assumes a new dynamic entirely, multiple times over.
From ‘Simmer Sugar Lace’ to ‘(Give Me) Real Love’ and ‘Making Me Believe (In One)’ onto ‘Crazy Dayz’, where complexity meets simplicity and progressive meets conservative, we expect any given listener to find healthy pinches of everything they look for in artful progressive music. In a musical world more convoluted with choice than ever before, to distinguish oneself from one’s peers can prove to be an arduous task.
However, equape have taken the time to step back and truly play to their strengths which are flavored by both obscure and enterprising elements. Hence ‘She Is…’ as a full piece, conveys as meticulously thoughtful and remarkably impressive in nature.
equape is simply on fire throughout the album, and the brilliance of this release did not catch me off-guard; ‘She Is…’ is one of the finest indie art-rock albums of the year and the band is undoubtedly ready to move from the sidelines to center stage.
equape consists of Pablo (voice, piano, acoustic guitar), Ray (electric guitars), Dylan (guitars, backing vocals), Nader (keys, programming), Desmond (bass, backing vocals) and Sasha (drums, percussion, backing vocals).