by Nathan Springer (@drownloading)
Earlier this year, Chicago/Milwaukee quartet Gentle Heat quietly released one of my favorite albums of the year thus far. I had seen them live the previous year and was immediately hooked by their blend of shoegaze-y textures, melodically adventurous guitar interplay, and driving, tight rhythmic elements. Featuring members of Churchkey, Friendlys, and other notable Chicago acts, Gentle Heat is composed of seasoned musicians, yet the project is fresh enough that you can sense its members figuring out each other’s melodic and rhythmic sensibilities. The resulting recordings, Dissolve, are filled with a nervous energy that is tempered by laid back vocal delivery and a knack for pretty melodies.
Dissolve opens with a beautiful, hazy keyboard chord that holds for half a minute, which is probably the most time you’ll have to breathe during the course of the album. After the band kicks in, opener “Head First” becomes a constantly evolving composition, never allowing any movement to linger for too long. “Set Piece” follows suit while also letting the drums and bass take the forefront at certain points, lending the track a beautiful sense of space. One of my favorite tracks, “Back to Nowhere”, switches things up by slowing things down and riding out on a syncopated drum and bass groove. The vocals are a strong point throughout; they rarely come to the forefront but always add a subtle melodic element to latch onto. “Sift Through” serves as an exception to this, as the refrain at the end of the song turns out to be one of the catchiest parts of the album.
Dissolve is a fantastic debut, especially for a band that has only been playing together (or at least performing in public) for a year or two. It remains to be seen if Gentle Heat will tour (they should) or stay centered in the Midwest, but for now they seem to be one of Chicago’s best kept secrets.