Dye by the Sword is a “slowcore” act hailing from my beloved home city of Montreal, QC. (Can’t say I’ve ever heard of this genre, but alright.) In the relatively short amount of time that this trio has been around (they formed in January, 2015), they have produced three efforts, which has lead me to today and my opinionated regurgitation about their latest release, Bats. The meat and potatoes of this act, and what displays most prominently on this record, is that of experimentation and full-out ambient fuckery (without the implied excitement, per se, because, you know, mellow shit). Though it is ambient and mellow isn’t to say that a style like this can’t be exciting, and this is where some points of note came to a head.
For those new to this sound, this is an act akin to avant-rock efforts like the renowned Sigur Ros, who at times show ambient tones similar to that of A Perfect Circle, even if just barely. All three of these acts have a mountain of similarities, which is surprising. Considering that they all sit within the spectrum of experimental music, where they differ is where I find myself having the biggest difficulty in staying enthralled and relating to these tunes: the vocals. This act boasts that each member plays each instrument at any given time. Where a heavily ambient-based effort like Bats falls short is that it’s missing a vocal section to make the human connection between melodies. A low yet almost choir-esque hum can be found at times, like on opening track “Flies,” but it fades into the remaining, albeit beautifully done, instrumentation almost forgetfully. Where A-list acts like Sigur Ros truly ring home is the human connection made by the vocals of Jón Þór Birgisson who absolutely dazzles with the almost inhuman execution of his craft.
I’m not necessarily saying that Dye by the Sword needs an otherworldly singer. What I’m saying is that although the music is honestly beautiful, it lacks a layer that makes the art relatable. The production value of this record could be discussed all the live long day with an effort as experimental as this. Personally, I found the recording quality of the drums to be a little less than desired, but could that be because the band felt it added to the effect? Or because I’m a picky asshole? Who knows! And that is why reviewing something along the lines of an avant-anything is, and always will be, a pain in the ass. All of that rambling is to say Bats is pretty, Dye by the Sword write some interesting stuff, but could do with a further trip down the rabbit hole of vocal effort. In the end, I could be wrong about all of it. You be the judge.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Kate Erickson