by Gordon Phillips (@gordonmphillips)
Even outside its seminal first generation, Dischord Records has incubated an innovative and intertwining web of musicians for the better part of four decades. Devin Ocampo, formerly and/or currently of Faraquet, Smart Went Crazy, Beauty Pill and Medications is one such musician. Ocampo enlisted Deleted Scenes’ Matt Dowling on bass and Buildings’ David Rich on drums to form his latest Dischord-backed ensemble, The Effects.
Eyes to the Light opens with “New Isolation,” a more than exemplary table of contents for the record. Those familiar with Ocampo’s body of work are greeted by familiar hallmarks—dizzying legato guitar lines, acrobatic time signature permutations and an unmistakable tendency to groove. This last tenant serves Eyes to the Light particularly well. Throughout the record, Ocampo, Dowling and Rich demonstrate a ready willingness to simply play the hell out of their respective instruments. Whether the spastic syncopated opening to “Onward Upward,” the (somewhat ironically-titled) meandering “Set it Off” or the album’s hypnotic six and a half-minute closer, “Moving On,” The Effects’ tandem musicianship truly sets this record apart.
While the Dischord catalog may get a bad wrap among non-believers for its density and abrasiveness, another of Eyes to the Light’s preeminent strengths is its accessibility. The record clocks in at a very palatable 36 minutes across nine songs. Despite the band’s propensity to meticulously shred each song from start to finish, Ocampo has written a set of ear-appeasing pop songs. Chorus melodies are catchy and gratifying while verses are punctuated and percussive, often complementing each other in transition and contrast.
No band of Ocampo’s will ever want for riffs. His guitar parts spiral and weave so thoroughly across song structures that they sometimes take on more of a textural, foundational quality than a typical “lead” guitar might. In most traditional three-piece rock band arrangements, this would relegate the bassist to root note duties, often simply for the sake of sonic coverage. Without leaving any low end exposed, Dowling meets Ocampo more than halfway on songs like “Low Lier” and “Onward Upward,” adding his own dosage of fretboard ballet counterpoint.
For a relatively short offering on a label that many would mentally associate with a long-established sound, Eyes to the Light is an intricate and diverse record in which fans of many genres will find something they can appreciate. On the other hand, long-time Dischord fans are sure to eagerly welcome The Effects to the label’s timeless ranks, and deservedly so.