Friday saw the release of one of the year’s more quietly anticipated albums, Empath‘s Active Listening: Night On Earth. Early singles had all hinted at Active Listening: Night On Earth being a singular release that straddled the divide between art-punk and basement pop and the record lives up to that promise in full. A swirling storm of controlled chaos, Active Listening: Night On Earth should firmly establish Empath as not just one of today’s weirdest punk bands but one of the best.
There’s an improbable beauty underneath the gnarled veneer of these tracks, which is typically coaxed out by lovely synth work and some tender vocal melodies. While those two traits interlock with each other, the band’s rhythm section goes to work, committing themselves to a rare level of ferocity that only comes about one in a while. Those competing halves somehow never overwhelm each other, which is where much of the please of Empath’s blown-out aesthetic lies.
In their moments of restraint, Empath achieves a breathtakingly gorgeous effect and when they give in to their most destructive impulses, the uncertainty rockets up to a level that surpasses observation and is felt directly, creating a series of jarring moments that near transcendence. Throughout the record, the band provides windows to both outcomes but slam them before too long, keeping the listener engaged and invested. Take together, it can be an overwhelming experience but it’s the rare overwhelming experience that will keep beckoning for returns. Active Listening indeed.
Listen to Active Listening: Night On Earth below and pick up a copy here.