Recorded at Rare Book Room in Brooklyn with mixer Nicholas Vernhes (Dirty Projectors, Deerhunter), Church and Palladino, along with the assistance of new bandmates drummer Dru Prentiss and live electronics by Nicholas Shelestak, built on the chilling, beautiful aesthetic they had created as a duo when recording at home. The result is a sound that is more powerful and more nuanced, covering broad oceans of emotional terrain. Opener and title track "Passage" is like watching a great shifting of tides through rapid time-lapse photography, introducing new dynamics in one magnificent breath. It is a statement of intent that tears down the Victorian boudoir gauze found on previous efforts. The ghosts are still piercing the veil, but now they're throwing chairs. The song begins gently, with candlelight piano plucks, distant explosions on the horizon, aching breaths and moans. But in moments, the oceans swell and lurch as it detonates into a shower of brilliant shrapnel.
Elsewhere, on album standout "The Night," Exitmusic's gaze moves upwards with chiming, blurry guitars, the heavenly sighs of Palladino in the background and one of the album's finest choruses in the foreground. And "Storms" sounds like Peng-era Stereolab as seen through a fun house carnival mirror. The album has a bona fide, fist-pumping anthem — "The Modern Age" — and closes elegantly with the starkly devastating "Sparks of Light." Simply put: This is arena goth.
Passage is a longtime in the making, and certainly worth the wait. Church and Palladino started writing together several years ago, when the Canadian-born Church moved to New York City, Palladino's home, following a year teaching English in Taiwan and India. Their collective sonic interests — layers, textures, churning, spacious guitars (Palladino had been playing hers since age 12), blinking electronics, shimmering vocals -- created a fruitful writing partnership immediately. Their songs began to take on new dimensions when the pair moved to Los Angeles a year later, finally committing their compositions to the recording process. A few twists and turns -- and a move back to New York City -- later, Exitmusic found a home with Secretly Canadian who released their first EP, From Silence, in Fall 2011. Critical raves for the four song collection poured in globally, with everyone from New York Magazine to The Guardian heralding the band's arrival. With the new live line-up, Exitmusic will have toured with artists such as Phantogram, School of Seven Bells, The Joy Formidable and A Place To Bury Strangers.
(SC254 released: 05/22/12)