Blistering regardless of the tempo they’re set to, the guitar parts in the new Velodrone album – titled simply Velodrone – are definitely reason enough to give this debut record a listen as soon as you can, but I don’t think they’re the sole element in “Black Cat,” “Together” or “Believe” that will keep you coming back to this tracklist time and time again this season. Velodrone are coming out of obscurity with the intension of reviving grungy hard rock for a new era of listeners to get into, and while their goals are awfully lofty (even for the most talented of players), they don’t seem out of reach here at all.
Along with the guitar component, the beats in tracks like “Elated,” “Sleepwalking,” “Harvest Moon” and “Wysiwyg” are definitely bearing lot of weight in the music. Melodically, there isn’t a lot of color to this LP, but that’s part of the reason why I think it feels so coldly emotional when we’re least expecting it to. In keeping all of the flamboyancy on the sidelines, not only do Velodrone make it easier for us to appreciate them for who they really are, but they make it clear just how much passion they truly have for the stories they tell.
A compelling mixture of pop hooks and bludgeoning sonic atmospheres spark some life in “Love Race,” “Reality,” “Believe” and “Sleepwalking” that imparts a lot of contrast to us, but once more, this is a point of aesthetical foundation more than a flagrant stab at hybridity (as has been true of the output their closest competitors in the California underground have been producing in 2020). There is no singular dimensionality tolerated in the lineup here; from the moment we press play forward, Velodrone are piling inconsistencies high as if to show us that they can meld whatever they have to in order to make us understand and feel the guts of what they’re saying.
The production quality feels intentionally messy in a few different instances here, but I think this was done in a bid to evoke memories of cassette culture – at least for those of us who are old enough (or grew up broke enough) to remember what tape trading culture really used to be like in this country before the advent of Soundcloud. It might not be the gritty pop sway of Indian Winter, but there are enough cues alluding to vintage bohemia to verify that Velodrone aren’t so wrapped-up in distortion-laden dreaminess as to ignore other avenues of expression when they’re rightly presented in the music.
Velodrone’s eponymous debut is a nice start to their career, but now comes the hard part – building on the success of this first offering with an evolved sound produced for the sophomore LP. Rockers who like their beats dressed up in a little extra dirtiness need to locate a copy of this record for themselves before the year expires, and while it’s not the only indie rock album I’ve given a solid review, it’s by far among the sonically scruffiest to have hit my speakers this month.
Gwen Waggoner, posted by Zachary Rush