ROGUE SOUNDS: The Sky System
Though there is no sonic comparison whatsoever, I can’t help but think of The Rocky Horror Picture Show when talking about the self-titled debut from Ashland band, The Sky System. Because it had me shivering with antici….pation.
The two-piece ambient electro-rock band is—in this critic’s mind anyhow—one of the more interesting bands in the region, blending ambient textures, electronic beats, and some truly smoking acoustic guitar work for an indie-pop sound that rocks and soothes at the same time, and could arguably be a generational bridge between the blues and roots music favored by Southern Oregon boomers, and the burgeoning indie scene millenials are hip to.
And the album delivers on the promise of The Sky System’s live shows.
It opens with “Drops,” which is anchored by a simple melodic synth riff and a mid-tempo beat on the shaker. It has the haunting feel of The XX (due at least in part to the twin male and female vocals of Sunny Erickson and Soriya Blalock), but with a decidedly sunnier sound.
The second tune pulls some melodic influence and guitar pattern from ‘90s alt-rock. There is clear influence from The Flaming Lips.
Another standout track is the album’s fifth, which opens with a shimmery piano line, and an ascending chord line that makes the vocal melody ultra-creepy.
The seventh track has a sparse and moody, ‘60s sound that is part ballad, part garage-pop, with hints of Russian folk beneath. It could easily pass for a B-side from NPR darlings Radiation City, especially with the soaring vocals from Blalock.
One especially interesting element is how long many of tracks on The Sky System are. Rather than cutting it off at radio length, they let themselves stretch, often to 7 minutes or more. And they stay engaging throughout.
The album closes with the strumming guitars and whistled melody of “Open,” a track you can easily get lost in.
It’s not a perfect album. A few of the drum patterns sound corny, and there’s a couple of skippable tracks. But on the whole The Sky System is a compelling album from a compelling band that is forging its own way instead of trodding down the road well-travelled.
The album is available for download on Bandcamp. The band plans to have physical copies available at shows.