Released just last Friday, Axis Decade’s new album, “Half Full of Empty,” is a wonderful shoegaze trip. Led by Callen Diederichs, this Saskatoon band uses slow tempos, high levels of reverb-soaked dulcet-sounding guitars, and a breathy, forlorn male voice in a way Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon/Red House Painters used to be known for. I yearn for the times when more artists were comfortable with an airiness left in recordings. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize this as lo-fi, but it hasn’t been compressed in a way most people releasing music these days so often do. I LOVE this organic, un-sanitized sound!
Within seconds of hearing the opening track, “Front Page Challenge,” I was intrigued and excited in a way I rarely am. This spacious sounding song just gives one the impression that this isn’t a record made with the expectation of being played on major radio stations, or competing with whatever pop trend is trying desperately to sell a million units at any cost. There is an earnestness this kind of production luxuriates in. If these artists are willing to be so open and vulnerable with the instrumentation, you’d have to assume the lyrics are the same. I’ve always found witnessing/hearing someone else openly share their vulnerabilities has a communal effect – when they share their story, you want to talk about yours. That’s why great music, movies and books often lead to great conversations.
Reading the notes for the album, all songs were recorded to tape instead of digitally. Well done to all involved! That makes sense and makes the passionate performances all the more impressive. You won’t find anything auto-tuned, or digitally hacked into a million pieces. Instead, each song ebbs and flows.
As I mentioned earlier, shoegaze stuff like Red House Painters seems to be a heavy influence on Axis Decade, and many songs fit a similar sonic template, but “For What It’s Worse” strays more towards a post-punk, bass heavy sound. This tune reminds me of the early 00’s when bands like Interpol and Bloc Party were getting well deserved heavy rotation. Placing this song midway through the record was a great idea by the group because it changes the pace up a bit.
“Half Full Of Empty” seems it’s an exact replica of what you could expect to see when this group perform a live set. If they come my way, I’ll be going to the show. I’ll also be throwing this record on the turntable often (The 12” vinyl is available via their bandcamp page). While all songs are written and performed well, I can’t help thinking a little more variety in instruments could have gone a long way to keep my ears in peak interest. I’ll just mumble to myself how I wish there was maybe a little piano added here, or an acoustic guitar added there.
Tracks to check out: “Front Page Challenge,” “For What It’s Worse,” and “I Am The Sun”
Photo Credit: Jacob Farrell