From a band that was born from a week long jam session in an old Richmond Plantation home, Avers’ debut album Empty Light screams of a project that emerged from another time and place. With a sound that would rival the ground-breaking psychedelic happenings that the Pacific Northwest has become accustom to unearthing in decades past, Avers’ unique brand of rock, one infused with garage-like rawness and trippy psychedelic elements, is sure to carve out a substantial niche within the genre’s fan base.
Musically, the first thing that jumps off the tracks is the heartbeat provided by drummer Tyler Williams (also of The Head and The Heart). As diverse as they are tone-setting, Williams lays the foundation to songs’ whose fuzzy and frenetic nature could lead listeners astray. However, Avers is too talented for that. The albums’ crazed guitar riffs and eerie keyboard provides an ethereal backdrop to the reverb-laden vocals provided by all members of Avers. The band features some of Richmond’s finest, including James Mason (the Mason Brothers), James Lloyd Hodges (Farm Vegas), Alexandra Spalding (Hypercolor), Adrian Olsen (Hypercolor), and Charlie Glenn (the Trillions). The quintet snakes their way through exchanging instruments effortlessly; bass, guitar and keyboard duties are shared and played by all, with everyone pitching in vocal. The talent and musicianship that Avers displays in order to pull of this line-up shines through when you start to break down the tracks of Empty Light.
Title track “Empty Light” paces this release, using an almost shoegazing melodic, fuzzed out guitar riff that perfectly complements heavily reverbed vocals and hushed harmonies to set the tone for an album that sounds like a Justin Vernon-project that was birthed from a retreat to a damp Seattle garage rather than a cold Wisconsin cabin; tracks like “Mercy” also have a similar gloriously meandering, abstract nature. Other tracks like “The Only One” and “Girls with Headaches” sound more like fast-paced dream pop, featuring catchy hooks and concise lyricism steeped in psychedelic sounds. Yet still, “Evil” shows another side to Avers, boasting a more traditional bluesy garage rock feel that features female vocals.
Empty Light, which was tracked live and produced by the band at Olsen’s studio Montrose Recording, has a DIY feel that is prevalent in all the right ways. The tracks sound authentic and warm yet professional and coherent, which is rare for the genre that Avers is immersing itself it. I have to admit: although I thoroughly enjoyed this record, it got to be a little much at times. Avers is still a young band, albeit not by the sum of its parts, and one that needs to find a true identifying sound. However, Empty Light gives its listeners enough to warrant sticking around for Avers to truly reach their potential.