Of Ennui’s debut EP, All Things Bad & Mean, slithers through a menagerie of hot, sand-baked rocks. Deliberate, serpentine movements shimmer with diamond-markings. It’s a powerful release that roars and croons with baritone coolness. The band — Brian Strauss, vocals/guitar; Christian Cate, guitar; Indigo Machado, drums; Angus Garcia, bass/background vocals — is a phalanx of untroubled, and impermeable, instrumentation. Hailing from San Diego, Of Ennui’s melodic discord channels My Bloody Valentine’s speaker eviscerating distortion, all while adding layers of viscous dread. There’s a defiant sense of peril, aggression, and intangible comfort throughout the record’s hypnotic running time. In “Ebola”, an eerie symphonic charge of uncanny valleys and lost roads shake the proceedings (imagine “Vapour Trail” by Ride as written by Krzysztof Penderecki).
All Things Bad & Mean has the gait of an early ’90s Nick Cave record, and, at times, the cavalier brooding of Stephin Merritt’s The Magnetic Fields, but it always maintains its own textured and undaunted originality. With modern music’s preoccupation with carnival sugar and sunbeams — those idealistic aesthetics are still amazing, don’t get me wrong — Of Ennui’s compass for snake scales and long shadows is a much needed dip into the deep end of an unlit pool.
With all of the record’s nuanced and expertly chaotic compositions, “Sad Boy” may be the perfect dichotomy of the band’s sound: spectral crescendos, reverb-laden vocals, mesmeric guitars. It’s a track that deserves repeated listens for its multi-textured writing. Of Ennui’s charcoal-dusted EP unearths forgotten memories, establishes a place and mood, and, most important of all, reminds us that wading through the darkness can be both cathartic and welcome. Please place these songs into your night-driving queue.