If you’re looking for an album that creates its own world, then your search ends here. The self-titled debut from ERAAS is the kind of album that’s becoming increasingly marginalised. The art of creating albums that are a cohesive whole is a difficult one to master, and bands who manage to pull it off are always worthy of investigation. Without a shadow of a doubt, the atmosphere of this album will immediately make an impression on the listener, even if the more spectral moments will take a little while to open up.
For 40 minutes, the Brooklyn-based duo of Robert Toher and Austin Stawiarz deal in dark, mournful textures and a sense of darkness that’s so intense that it almost has a physical presence. The album opener, Black House, eases us into proceedings with its deceptively soothing strings, before a strangely discordant ending gives a small hint as to what’s really in store.
Despite the downbeat feel of the album, its melodies have a great impact. The syncopated bassline that opens A Presence throws a dash of post-punk into the mix, briefly falling away for an ethereal-sounding verse before crashing back in again, backed at all times by a motorik groove. It’s a dark and oppressive song that is an indication of how the rest of the record will sound. However, there are times when the duo stray into more immediate territory; the pulsing, four-to-the-floor beat found on At Heart injects the song with a kind of nervous energy that hints at it exploding at any moment. It doesn’t, instead remaining ominous throughout. It never cuts loose, and this increases, rather than lessens, its impact.
Much the same can be said of the album as a whole; there is a palpable sense of anxiety bubbling underneath the surface, and this makes for some undeniably uneasy listening. The album’s content to spend most of its running time in mid-tempo mode, but it’s capable of switching things up in arresting fashion when its creators feel like it; Briar Path is as close to a widescreen-sounding ERAAS song as it’s possible to get, giving off a haunting vibe, yet doing so in an irresistible manner. It’s one of the songs on the album that will leap out at the listener whilst they wait for much of the rest of it to catch up.
This record can sound slightly off-putting at times, but that’s what makes it so compelling. The echo-laden Crosscut acts as an interlude before leading straight into the jagged riff of Fang, a song which can quite comfortably be called the most danceable moment on the album. For a band who rose from the ashes of post-rock outfit Apse, they have undergone a remarkable metamorphosis. The slow-paced nature of their debut means that it’s not the most welcoming of listens, but they learn to let loose on closer Trinity, whose funereal pace allows them to infuse the song with as much power as possible. Even as it shuffles to its conclusion, it does so in an unexpected manner that wraps up the album with a flourish. It’s an unsettling world that the group have created, but their opening statement is a rewarding listen, revealing a little more of itself with each spin. There’s plenty of potential to be found, but now that they’ve proven their ability to create albums which flow effortlessly, ERAAS can go anywhere from here.