I expect many people would find it hard to pin The Choir down at this moment. On the one side, they’ve been fairly consistent with releases over the past few years. But at the same time, Derri Daugherty has been adding vocals and guitar to the Americana duo Kerosene Halo, and both he and drummer/lyricist Steve Hindalong have been invested in the Americana/rock group the Lost Dogs. Daugherty has been hip-deep in music production. Hindalong has been getting fleeting facetime as a drummer on the ABC drama Nashville. Tim Chandler has been back with Daniel Amos on the most recent Dig Here, Said The Angel, and Dan Michaels and Marc Byrd have been involved with other projects. How they manage to come together to rejoin The Choir in progress is kind of a mystery.
It is, however, a mystery held together with gratitude, especially when the results are albums like Shadow Weaver. The cover is deceptive though, the image being the shadow of a bare tree crossing the darkened broad-side of a barn, you’d half expect this to be more in line with the Americana leanings of late. Then you turn the music on and are blasted by wave after wave of a sonic tsunami. It’s not metal, not at all, but I’ll get to my speculation on what it is in a moment.
I find that albums by The Choir tend to shift between the dominant poles of the two primaries, Daugherty and Hindalong. 2010’s Burning Like The Midnight Sun, with its lyrical portraits of band members, family, and acquaintances falls at the feet of Hindalong, one of music’s unheralded great lyricists. Shadow Weaver, on the other hand, comes across as a Derri record. That’s pure speculation, but the textured, ambient guitars coming at you in impenetrable chunks leave you with few other choices.
This brings me to mind of a Facebook thread both Derri and I were in on in early 2013. We both had caught wind that the legendary shoegaze/dream-pop outfit My Bloody Valentine was about to reform. Not only that, they were about to reform right now, dropping their album mbv that very day for those who wanted to download it. Derri’s been an unabashed fan of powerful groups like Husker Du and MBV, but while those tendencies peeked through on the most recent Choir albums, they were only that: peeks, hints, washes. The treatment worked for those songs, but I believe longtime fans were hoping for that big, chunky, serrated sound as was on the Kissers and Killers and Free Flying Soul albums. That’s what they get with Shadow Weaver.
Let’s be clear that this is not just a monolith of feedback and reverb. With Byrd and Hindalong firmly in the mix, these are songs, not experiments. The offerings on the disc are well-rounded. There are a few lovely, acoustic-driven tracks like “We All Know,” but there’s also the anthemic “Get Gone,” and the hooky, should-be-a-single “Rhythm of the Road,” and all of these are approachable and even hummable, even when the electric is up as high as possible.
For those who might have felt that the last few Choir records were a tad too sedate, the fellows have shaken it up with Shadow Weaver, offering a collection that is beautiful, intense, and very loud.
For more information and samples from the new album, visit the band’s website: www.thechoir.net