by Stephen Veith (@QuakerOats91)
Philadelphia band Knifeplay has released two EP’s No Funeral and With U in the past year. No Funeral begins with a low melodic hum of vocals complimented with fuzzed out guitar and a squealing synth backing it all together. They incline you to believe this will be another lo-fi band relying on minute pitch shifts and hushed vocals to encapsulate their sound. As you progress through No Funeral you realize its much more than that, distorted fuzz riffs complimented by shiny guitar lines elevate the normalized ‘bedroom pop’ epidemic currently infecting most of Philadelphia into a bizarro version of itself. Interesting chord progressions and gorgeous guitar lines often masked by the lo-fi overly effected guitar found in other projects, really makes them stand out on “Breathe,” reminiscent of early Beach Fossils with interjections of synth strikes that are once again backed by the orchestral fillings of the keyboard as a clap track meanders gorgeously in the background. Another key advantage they continue to utilize is the orchestral swells from their keyboardist that fill out a lot of the intentionally minimalist workings of other instrumentation in the band, giving them a fuller sound and engaging the listener to bob their head along to the hypnotic drums and waning electronic parts. Combining with the distorted and heavy fuzz of the guitars and the almost marching of the drums deeply mixed in the background, as No Funeral progresses you hear the piano and synth lines that compliment the swelling leads and soft vocals on “Hidden Track.”
On their latest EP, With U, a two-song release, Knifeplay start slow with about fifteen seconds of soft synth and vocals that transitions in a low-fi kaleidoscope of swirling melodic instrumentals. Lead singer TJ Strohmer sings, “I don’t wanna ever leave this room,” the full sound of the spinning synths combined with the walking bass-line descends into a soft piano and guitar as the band ends the songs. One of my favorite tracks of the year, "With U" is compact, well composed, and beautiful. "Heaven" is a shorter track with a simple lead guitar line and those incredible orchestral keys complimented so often in this review.
These two releases could put together as one, and that’s good news, because here's hoping that sooner than later, Knifeplay puts out a full length debut. Keep your eyes peeled for this band, not only do they sound fantastic recorded, but live, the songs truly come to life and the heaviness of the seemingly under-mixed guitar fuzz on the record lends Knifeplay to be a heavier band than they appear without losing any of the composition and melody that is found on these two releases.