Photo: Jeremy Balderson
Dead Waves, a duo consisting of brothers Nick and Teddy Panopoulos, will release their latest EP, Abandoned Children, this week. While their last album, 2018’s Gods of the Wild, seemed to bridge the gap between Nineties indie rock and something more experimental and primal, Abandoned Children dives headlong into the atavistic.
Inspired in part by Greek mythology, Abandoned Children is a cry for the suffering youth of this world, tossed to and fro by forces beyond their control. Yet everything here is delivered in a minimalist fashion. The release moves from the soft instrumental intro of “Arcadia” to the hypnotic pulse of “Torn Sheets.” The vocal on the latter barely moves beyond a whisper, and no single element of the song demands attention. It is gentle but not without substance, the layers of guitars constructing a haunting atmosphere.
These are followed by another short piece — the almost instrumental “Drinking with Jeff Buckley” — and then perhaps the record’s most powerful track, “Innermost.” A repeated guitar figure creates a sense of palpable menace and builds upon a bass pulse that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Sunn O))) record. “Innermost” is as close to cathartic as Abandoned Children gets, but all its power can’t wipe the pain away.
With “Hypnagogia” things grow quiet again, though not as soft as before. The vocals sound like they are shouted from a distance and as the song title indicates, the feeling is somewhere between wakefulness and dreaming, an apt description of the EP as a whole.
The title track closes out the release. It sounds like the ghost of their indie-rock roots with its subdued 4/4 drum beat and strummed guitar. A slightly muffled spoken vocal attempts to give voice to the lost children of this world, their agency drowned out by the machinations of those who are currently in control. If and when their day comes, will things be any different?
Every Dead Waves release has been compelling, but it feels like they have finally found their true sound. As quiet as this release is, it never comes across as passive or toothless. This music feels as important as it does ethereal. It sounds like ghosts at the edge of the firelight trying to tell us something. Are we listening?