ALBUM REVIEW: Empath Makes Experimental Listenable on ‘Active Listening: Night on Earth’

The Philly band makes psychedelic noise punk reminiscent of Sonic Youth, Fiery Furnaces and Deerhunter.

Active Listening: Night on Earth, the debut album from Philly four-piece Empath, is a noisy, psychedelic whirlwind of sonic energy.

Striking just the right balance, the band’s music is decidedly experimental, but not completely unapproachable. There’s pop melodies in most of the songs, obscured by atmospheric yet unflinchingly brittle production. And when they’re not buried under noise, you’ll find lush, ambient layers of synthesizers and guitar hiding with strange samples and field recordings. Despite the peppy synth leads and familiar pop-punk chord progressions, this album is about as abrasive as any other noise rock record.

“Pure Intent” keep the listener guessing with a mostly linear structure and a catch-and-release rhythm. “IV” slows things down with a good few minutes of shimmering, slightly atonal soundscapes. The sing-shout vocals of Catherine Elicson have a familiar style that shift slightly out of tune in the best way possible, fitting excellently over the band’s wild instrumentals.

And as if the vocals and the leads didn’t already wow you enough, the drums are absolutely insane. They frequently undergo aggressive two-step crescendos without warning and constantly clip in the mix, adding another element of raw garage rock passion that is enough alone to warrant a listen to this album.

Empath does wear their influences on their sleeve; their psychedelic-noise immediately conjuring up images of Sonic Youth, Fiery Furnaces and early Deerhunter. However, they more than make their sound their own with punky, dynamic structures and catchy but twisted tunes.

Score: 🌎🌎🌎🌎/5