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Roost, 'Basic Phases'

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Roost,'Basic Phases
  • Roost,'Basic Phases

(Self-released, CD, digital)

It's midnight, and I'm driving past Philadelphia, fleeing like a fugitive from a holiday down south and toward a snowstorm waiting for me in Vermont. All the podcasts in the world can't keep my attention at this point, so I take a gamble and put on the new Roost EP, Basic Phases. This could backfire on me. Going with the wrong soundtrack on a late-night drive can easily result in giving up and getting a hotel, being a quitter and driving in postholiday daytime traffic like a noob.

As the first track "Developments" kicks off, I feel instantly vindicated. A few moments of a skittering drum machine beat transitions into slick synths and a pulsing groove. Then, like some warped combination of James Murphy and Ultravox's John Foxx, singer and multi-instrumentalist Zack Schuster saunters into the tune. His melodies, as much spoken as sung, convey a drugged-out, stream-of-consciousness sensation, and they are placed meticulously in the arrangements.

A frost-covered sort of funk starts to emerge as the EP progresses. "Winners" comes in with a post-punk-flavored bass line, courtesy of Mike Harris, that nicely dovetails with angular, sparse guitar. The band seems to have gone a little more glacial than on its 2019 self-titled debut. Live drums have been replaced with electronic beats, synths far outnumber the guitar tracks, and Schuster's vocals are right up front like a baritone uttering nonsense in your ear.

"New Face" finds the Burlington band displaying its ever-expanding powers of arrangement and production. "Now I'm sitting in my spot / The man I saw three months ago in the same spot / He wants a smoke again / I give it to him," Schuster almost croons, a Dada-like story unfolding along with the song. Right around the four-minute mark, the groove gets so entrenched and augmented, it's like a siren pulsing.

The city lights are far from my rear-view mirror by the time "Gated Beach Community" kicks off. Any ounce of lethargy has disappeared from my body as my head nods reflexively to the club-banger of a beat. It's a five-and-a-half-minute rave-up that closes the EP in stunning fashion.

Roost expertly balance new-wave nostalgia with a dance-y sort of experimental side, the result of which is a fiercely distinctive sonic identity. In layman's terms, the songs will keep your ass moving.

Though it's only four tracks, Basic Phases clocks in around 26 minutes. Nonetheless, I let it play three times in a row as I drove through a blessedly deserted New Jersey Turnpike and, man, the Garden State has never flown by so fast. I'll be keeping the record handy for the next drive, and you should, too.

Head over to roost.bandcamp.com to download Basic Phases or order the limited-edition CD.