Experimental Aircraft: Love for the Last Time (Rollerderby Records, 2002)
It is rare to find that album that continually, in one instance or another, finds its way into your cd player or mp3 player. For me, Experimental Aircraft‘s Love for the Last Time is one of those albums. I consistently start looking through my cd wallet in the car and desire to hear the angelic vocals of Rachel Staggs, perfect percussion of Jason, ghostly vocals of TJ, the subtle bass work of Mark and the atmospheric guitars of Rachel, TJ and Jason. With the combination of these musicians and the fantastic song writing, dream pop/shoegaze never sounded so fresh and amazing.
“Symphony” begins showcasing Experimental Aircraft‘s (ExAir) incredible sound. Rachel instantly demonstrates her hypnotic vocals over simple guitar that turns into soaring guitars and intricate percussion. The backbeat in this song along with the subtle bass work is addicting. On the heals of “Symphony,” “Johnny” once again demonstrates Jason‘s brilliant percussion work. He seems to use the whole kit and, yet, never overdoes it or seems too busy. TJ also appears on this track as a vocalist to compliment Rachel. Subtle pings and blips are added to the song for depth in the midst of the noise.
“Contemplative Silence” is a slow tempo song with shimmery guitars and powerful builds. The longer the listener sits with the album, the more they realize that Rachel has a charismatic and enchanting voice. That, coupled with the bands guitar work, Mark‘s bass work and Jason‘s percussion, ExAir produces a sound that truly is a symphony. Everything about this album screams depth. “Tired Way” gives the listener a respite from the faster songs by slowing it down a bit. TJ‘s and Rachel‘s vocals play off one another in ghostlike fashion over shimmering soundscapes and a spacey vibe in the background. The feel of the song is languid and really conveys the title well throughout the composition. After lulling the listener into quiet comfort, ExAir jolts the audience awake with distortion that leads the listener into an incredibly catch track called “Seasick.” The vocals by TJ are fantastically haunting on this track and Mark‘s bass work is amazing. The guitar work is haunting as well, complimenting the vocals, as TJ and Rachel play off of each other and layer their intimate melodies. A low-end pulse begins “Suspended.” After the low-end pulse, Rachel breaks out into light, airy vocals. This track has a more stripped down feel than the previous tracks. It demonstrates ExAir‘s ability to quiet down and still write an incredible engaging song. “Elephant” rounds out the album. It has a sort of tribal beat with glimmering guitars and TJ‘s brooding vocals. Again, Rachel‘s vocals compliment TJ‘s and they make an incredible duo. This set of musicians really finishes off a superb album with amazing precision, beautiful melody and incredible sound.
ExAir has produced a coherent album with superb songwriting, catchy melody, and precise musicianship. Rachel, TJ, Mark, and Jason make up a band that should be watched by all music lovers in the coming years. If this is just their sophomore album, I can’t wait to see what comes next.