THE DEBUT ALBUM
From Best New Bands:
Portland – There really is something special about seeing a musician experience a rebirth, taking the essentials of his craft and adding a daring splash of vitality to the mix. Portland musician Benjamin Tyler has been involved in the Portland music scene for a while, recording and playing shows under the name Stepkid. He has since expanded his colorful sonic palette and recruited a band of fresh new faces for his new project, aptly named Small Skies. Tyler and crew stepped onstage at the Doug Fir Lounge with an adventurous new enthusiasm and a readiness to explore the freeing possibilities of performing with a full band.
On the eve of their self-titled debut album’s release, Small Skies could be mistaken for a band with years of touring experience. Despite some early mixing issues and rhythmic hesitance, the foursome delivered a remarkably solid set of brand new songs for the eager audience. They seemed to blend soaring synths and hypnotic rhythms into a kind of ethereal landscape, a place where the strange desires of the heart bleed into reality. Each new song was marked by a spacey bridge sequence; though some were simply filler for preparation’s sake, it gave the impression of cohesion throughout the performance.
I found myself utterly entranced by the otherworldly reverie of “In the End”, a cascading free-fall through iridescent mountainscapes. Other memorable songs like “So Long” and “Never See You Again” were rich with airy textures and crushing beats, with the latter courtesy of Tyler’s contorted sense of time. The effect was that of episodic clipping, made more palpable by the distorted clips of vintage film displayed behind the band. It is easy to see why the multitasking drummer/vocalist was eager to increase the band’s roster: it allowed the songs more room to breathe, with each member providing a noticeable expanse upward and outward into nebulous new territory.