Review: Valleys – Stoner EP
What makes Valleys unique is the way they submerge pop melodies in oceanic depths of distorted, reverberant guitaring, as well as their ambient, evocative vocals. In opening track “The Cold Cold Skinny”, singers Marc St Louis and Matilda Perks sing together in a sort of monotonous chant to a steadily-paced rhythm and placid guitar riffs before abruptly moving into an intense build-up of anxiety and apprehension with expressive guitaring and almost tribal-sounding drums. All this intensity then settles into a tide pool of resounding guitars and buzzing synths, giving a final sense of release and a resolution to the song’s inherent unease.
“Ordinary Dream” opens on a peaceful note with gentle guitars and Perks’ layered, echoing vocals, effectively illustrating a musical dreamscape as it evokes a sense of being suspended underwater. The song feels much more at-ease than its predecessor and is much more concise instrumentally and in length. Following this is “Ten Thousand Hours”, which opens with a build-up of heavy drums and shuddering synths before leading into powerful, shouted singing. The screaming manages to feel non-confrontational as it sounds like singer Marc St Louis is standing far back from his microphone, allowing the echoes to carry the fervent vigor in his voice. Just as in the EP’s first track, the augmentation of anxiety is resolved in a climactic moment followed by a warm spell of atmospheric guitar noise, strongly reminiscent of Sonic Youth.
Stoner is all about evoking emotion, and Valleys executes it in a frighteningly efficient manner. Succinct though it is, being comprised of only three tracks, it feels adequately complete. The EP tells a story – and, like any good story, it has its climaxes and its resolutions, but leaves the listener anticipating more. –Natasha Young