We, as a music-consuming people, are well past the days of debating whether the album has died a slow death. Many listeners and artists consider the full-length as the most cohesive way to make an artistic statement; just as many people prefer to listen one track at a time. So it's not too surprising that a band like local duo Con Trails has chosen to release its songs in drips and drabs, with a two- or three-song EP coming out every few months. In an age of digital distribution and digital consumption, why wait? For Con Trails — Kevin Guszkowski (guitar and vocals) and Luke Sapa (drums) — these bite-size releases offer nuanced versions of the band's hazy, raucous, melodically inclined brand of shoegaze.
The two-track Dozer came out this past December, and it finds Con Trails draping itself in the swirls and spangles of exploratory rock & roll that rides on tension and release. The title track works up a steady churn with some unconventional tunings and a guitar line that strays from the vocals just enough to sow the seeds of disharmony. "Sub Rosa" is a bit more restrained; Guszkowski's vocals, obscured in the previous track, ache and bend along with his guitar strings. This slower tempo and bittersweet vibe gives Sapa reason enough to dial in some brute force on the drums. Here, he moves the game forward with a steady ride cymbal and little else.
On February's three-song Tunnel Prey, some drop-D discordance creeps in among the creamy reverb and plunking echoes. If Ride or My Bloody Valentine were lightly referenced in the previous outing, this missive bears of the mark of the muddier sections of Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation. "Smeared Teeth" even veers momentarily into Pavement's marriage of odd syncopation and a detached, sing-songy delivery. These three songs are of a piece with the previous release, but the subtle shifts in tone and structure suggest that Con Trails is in that fruitful period of a band's development where a sound has been established and is now fodder for reinvention. Whether the band commits to a full-length LP at some point is anyone's guess, but these every-few-months transmissions show a band at work nonetheless.—Christian Schaeffer
Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.