The New York City duo Dead Waves, which consists of the brothers Nick and Teddy Panopoulos, is set to release the brand-new full-length God of the Wild, the first on their newly formed label Entheon Records, on November 16. Produced by the legendary Martin Bisi, this record finds the duo utilizing unusual instrumentation and also forgoing the presence of any percussion.
Dead Waves have always been difficult band to pin down. Seemingly inspired by such nineties alternative rock acts such as Nirvana, Pixies and Sonic Youth, they’ve also been a bit more outside and abrasive ever since their inception. God of the Wild seems at first glance to abandon these influences altogether and delve deeper into experimental territories. But further examination finds their roots still intact, albeit in a more spectral form.
Album opener “Gabriella” launches the record in an understated manner, with female vocals intoning a repetitive but infectious melodic figure. Here, one can almost trace the transformation of the alternative rock of yesteryear into the sort of 4AD-inspired opiate-noir that is so prevalent nowadays, the kind of music that slinks around the soundtracks of shows like True Detective. This track is a bit of an outlier on the album, though, its nearest cousins being “Silver Pirouettes” with it’s infectious bassline hinting at a song that never quite kicks in, or “Dream Harvest,” which sounds like the ghost of the Pixies at their most danceable.
The title track, which appears second in the running order, sketches out the other side of Dead Waves’ sound. Here, the approach is more rustic and atavistic. Nick Panopoulos’ clean guitar spars with his brother’s flute work and is soon joined by a second, fuzzed-out guitar and a psychedelic, primal vocal. The track is short but effective, bridging the gap between experimental rock and some sort of unknown, barbarous folk music.
The album effectively sways back and forth between these types of song forms, haunting yet melodic rock-scapes and trance-inducing forest jams. At times, one can picture Sonic Youth covering Neil Young’s iconic soundtrack for the movie Dead Man. On tracks like “Cousin of Magiic” or particularly “Astrapi,” the guitar work simultaneously invokes the woodsy black metal of Wolves in the Throne Room and the grasping melodies of Indian ragas.
After all the tension between the competing poles of Dead Waves’ sound, the album closer “Tabula Rasa” completes the alchemical marriage. A Sonic Youth guitar riff runs side by side with a more ominous drone, and the vocals consist primarily as cathartic bellow. At a run time of less than two minutes, it’s almost like jumping into the Pixies‘ “Monkey Gone to Heaven” right at the climax, with Black Francis screaming “then God is seven!” but with Sunn O))) playing in the background.
With God of the Wild, Dead Waves have constructed a very intriguing and enjoyable album. The interplay between the brothers’ various muses keeps things both familiar yet unpredictable, but the mood of primal catharsis though, is consistent throughout. The listener is pulled along, intellectually drawn to the experimental song forms while emotionally engaged with the sound itself. In some ways, God of the Wild sounds like the culmination of the journey the duo has been on to find their sound, and whatever comes next will surely be the opening of a new chapter in their development.
Stream “Cousin of Magiic”: