They may be far from the only band working in this style, but Ephrata’s first and self-titled full length is an eleven song opus certain to snag them a measure of status in indie circles. Formed in 2012 by guitarist Brady Hall, the band has evolved to the point that this release shows them off as colorful yet tasteful, thoroughly modern, and capable of mixing compelling musical textures with genuinely probing lyrics. Vocalist Skandi von Reis is the other key component of the song and she distinguishes herself at numerous points throughout the recording. The Seattle band’s talents are growing at an exponential rate across the board and this full length studio album chronicles the extent of their ambitions and growing skills. Only an EP and album into their careers and the members of Ephrata sound like a seasoned artistic unit with a complete sound and focused approached towards their goals.
If the band wanted the album to get off to a fast and memorable start, they could have scarcely chosen better than “Odds”. This briskly paced number shimmering with Brady Hall’s guitar has an equally dexterous rhythm section that lays down an intensely musical counterpoint to the top line melodic instruments. The vocals come as advertised – dreamy, ethereal aimed solo singing augmented with multi-part harmonies spread out across the sonic canvas with an ear turned towards atmosphere and grandeur. There’s a circular, revolving quality to the song “Tunguska” quite different from the opener but just as recognizably Ephrata. Bassist Jules Jordan stands out on “Sea of Straight Faces”, but there are a lot of factors coming together to make this one of the band’s best songs thus far. It sounds even more fleshed out and threaded together than earlier numbers, but that feeling doesn’t create any of its expected distance. Ephrata, instead, are masters of dynamics and possess a truly world class singer in their ranks. “Sea of Straight Faces: comes together in such a way you can’t deny its emotional heft.
The album probably hits its grittiest notes with the tandem “Fiend Folio” and “1000 Things”. The first track balances its electronic and instrumental attack to great effect while still maintaining a hard nosed approach. The latter tune, “1000 Things”, favors the guitar much more and has a near-raucous punk rock fervor. “Consequence” has an airy, upward trajectory that generates a fair amount of tension, but the band never resolves it in a satisfactory way. The second to last track on the album, “Evil Twin”, is a likely sleeper gem on the album that no one should overlook – they bring another texture to the band’s arsenal and convincingly inhabit a largely acoustic setting. The finale “Sun Scenario” is the album’s big statement, its extended piece intended to show off a fuller range of the band’s talents, and it has a vaguely hallucinatory and heavily dramatic gait. Ephrata’s musings on this tune prove they can inhabit larger sonic canvases and fill them with the same color. The album, as a whole, makes this indelible fact.