by Ivan Krasnov
Washington, D.C.’s wildly prolific Dove Lady have been trailblazing the underground in recent years with their portrayal of disparate styles in seemingly effortless fashion. Armed with only a guitar, drum kit, and their two voices, Andrew Thawley (drums/vocals) and Jeremy Ray (guitar/vocals) nevertheless boast a wide array of soaring guitar riffs and manipulated vocals to create a diverse and enveloping sonic palette. Their debut One turned heads upon its release last June, best exhibiting the duo’s penchant for blistering math punk and post-hardcore, while cementing them as masters of the tension-release dynamic. Their ability to cram so much into so little is complemented by moments of expansiveness, where they attempt to counteract their normally angular approach to rocking out. Grooves are broken down and set free into jazz-like interludes, as layers of billowing guitars, warped vocals, and earworm melodies sail upwards into the stratosphere. The more ethereal side of this light and heavy binary is explored on November’s E EP, yet intense bursts of virtuosity and punk energy are still scattered throughout. On the continuation of their alphabet EP series, F sees Dove Lady commit themselves to textural experimentation more than ever as the main guiding force behind their songs.
Opening track “You Are All My People” is an unorthodox yet effective introduction. The piece feels deliberate and fleshed out in the soundscape it creates and quickly surrounds you with. Alternate tunings and buzzing harmonics make for a rich guitar tone, used to build dense and looping drones not dissimilar from Oren Ambarchi’s early compositions. What is soon apparent is that this is not your average ambient filler track but rather an extension of the duo’s adventurous exploration of sound and its limits. It recalls the ambient interludes on Deerhunter’s breakout 2007 LP Cryptograms - all of them worthy in and of themselves as effective ways to complicate the rock album formula.
One of Dove Lady’s redeeming strengths is their ability to switch from one groove to another with complete ease. “Education Soul Connection” opens with the duo’s usual spasmodic riffs but is followed by a wide open B section, with vocal harmonies stacked on top of one another to create a shimmering psychedelic swirl. Only as we begin to get comfortable do they flip the script and dissolve the track into a heady and watery instrumental bridge. And out of it emerges a shuffling outro that lifts the track into a flourishing finish. Here, as well as on the propulsive “Volleyball, Volleyball, Star-Captain,” with its sing along chorus that weasels its way into your head, Dove Lady continue to poke at the boundaries of song structure. And while we’ve heard them engage in this sort of exercise on previous releases, it’s clear the duo are only getting better at it.
F is however the first time we hear more of a subdued and explorative sound from the duo and less of their usual heavy intensity. The buoyant “Let It Shine” is a prime example of their recent psychedelic streak, slowing down their normally unhinged grooves to make space for meditative reflections. “Can’t you feel the subtle tear/In the fabric of reality?” ask the duo, as they strut along a dreamy waltz lead by a pleading guitar arpeggio. Final track “Occupation” bookends the EP with another ambient cut, this time with an impactful spoken word section. A genuine sense of loss permeates the voice we hear throughout, as it laments, “It’s our nation’s capital/It’s Washington, D.C./Occupied 8:45am, January 20th, 2017.” Yet inherent in all of Dove Lady’s musical forms is a defiant sense of hope and energy. With their neverending display of talent, there is no doubt that the D.C. duo are equipped to push back against and transcend this occupation’s effects.