Lavinia are a creation from a multitude of other bands that have already proven themselves in the post-rock world (Eksi Ekso, On Fire, Caspian), and it would be easy to say that the band have nothing more to show to the world. Armed with an already very accomplished back catalogue of releases from different record labels and bands, Take Shelter could have very easily been a phoned-in record that appealed to the masses of fans that would no doubt devour it up regardless of whatever derivative qualities there might have been. Luckily, that couldn’t really be farther from what happens on the new 7″ from Lavinia. Here they combine despondent Cure-esque vocals with incredibly powerful crescendos that build up from depressive, twinkling guitars. The passion from the two tracks is palpable, and many bands try without success to replicate what is on full display here.
The question that could honestly be asked here is: Is a two track EP worth a purchase, or even a listen? The answer is a resounding yes to both; Lavinia have created two mini-epics that instill a mood that other bands would be hard pressed to invoke within the span of an entire album. The atmosphere can be vast and open one minute, and then spiral downward into a dense forest of contemplation the next. The first track “New Blood” starts off with a somber guitar line that breaks into a more expansive, fuller instrumental affair soon after. The telling part of Lavinia’s formula is that crunchy distortion is not shied away from; rather it is used as an effective tool display full-on aggressiveness in both songs. This leaves the last thirty seconds of the first song surprisingly heavy, but it builds up to that apex wonderfully. The vocals that Nate Shumaker (ex-Eksi Ekso) provides are unobtrusive to the soundscape created and are in essence another instrument to convey the desperation evident in the music. They create crucial bridges from the more ethereal passages to the heavier aspects of their sound, and certainly add to the dark tone that shines through most of the 11+ minutes of music. While most of the time guitars are the main focus of songwriting for post rock bands, the drums are not only worthy of a mention but also integral to the sound of this band. Alex Mihm (Eksi Ekso) is very active on his drums, pounding away with interesting fills on the more distorted sections but playing his drums more crucially and never overpowering during the rest of the band during constrained parts of songs.
Take Shelter will evoke different emotional responses from different listeners, and it is obviously the band’s intention to create music that is so open to interpretation. Contrary to many post rock acts, this record demands active listening. There are no lulls without a far-reaching and earth-shattering climax following right after it. It is certainly a scenario where everything is in its right place to create an EP where the sum is much greater than the parts making it up. The hypnotizing clean guitar that permeates the atmosphere on “Halo” gives way to a heavy riff akin to Russian Circles, then fades out abruptly for Shumaker’s wretchedly lonely vocals. For such an active record it is very easy to get lost in, and there is a vast expanse in the soundscape created that will certainly put them head and shoulders above many of the genre. As the final notes fade into obscurity on the last song, I can’t help but be excited about what the future of this incredibly talented band will hold.
1. New Blood