There is something pathetic about the fact that I'm writing this while missing The Effects in concert in D.C. tonight. It's not like I haven't seen Devin Ocampo in other bands here (Deathfix, Warm Sun), but I did want to see this band at some point. However, as usual, work commitments got in the way for me.
Regardless of that, I'm exceedingly happy to tell you that the new Effects record, Eyes To The Light, out Friday on Dischord, is a fine release and one that showcases these 3 musicians to, well, marvelous effect. The Effects -- Devin Ocampo (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Matt Dowling (bass, vocals, keyboards), and David Rich (drums, percussion) -- offer up blistering and oddly soulful post-punk of a sort that seems to push this music as a genre into a new space. That sounds pretentious but long-time fans of this sort of thing will understand my meaning.
Opener "New Isolation" burns with a nice fury, while "Numbers" positively pops and crackles with a spry bit of energy. As Ocampo coos over the simple chord changes, the drums and bass of Rich and Dowling burst out of the speakers (or headphones, as your case may be). The tune seems to evolve as it goes on and there's a decidedly prog vibe going on here that recalls Eighties King Crimson, or solo Belew releases. The best tracks on Eyes To The Light let the rich melodies take center-stage even as the 3 players show off their chops. "Anchors Aweigh" churns and unspools with a gentle lilt as the instruments hit with force all around Devin's easy vocal-lines. The lyrical "Set It Off" lets a looping melody drive things, while the Zenyatta Mondatta-isms of "Back and Forth" suggest the faintest hint of jazz-rock as an influence here. Producer J. Robbins (Jawbox, Channels, Office Of Future Plans) deserves a lot of credit for recording this in such a way that a listener can pretty much feel the hooks in a big way.
For all my talk of musicianship, or prog or fusion influences, the selections on Eyes To The Light are uniformly tight and concise, and hardly pretentious or too wonky. Less angular than the tunes Ocampo worked out with Smart Went Crazy, the ones here on Eyes To The Light are every bit as sharp and smart. It's just that they are far more focused. Only the final cut here, the longer "Moving On", offers up the sort of wider space that allows these players to explore and make riffs, riffs that are borderline indulgent. The other tracks on this debut album are all fairly refined nuggets of the sort of post-punk (for lack of a better word) that Ocampo threw down in Faraquet and Medications, for instance. What The Effects have done so well here is create music that allows for musician-y moments -- a bit of flash here, a burst of indulgence there -- but which also maintains a real focus. The cuts on Eyes To The Light breeze past in fits of wild inventiveness in small bites, with impulses to show-off largely restrained. Fans of Medications and Faraquet, for example, will find lots here that sounds familiar while constantly marveling at the very economy with which Ocampo and Rich and Downling have managed to get this one down on tape.
[Photo: Michael Honch via the band's Facebook page]