In the never-ending argument of nature vs. nurture, Gowns lend argument to the latter with their debut album, Red State (Cardboard), released earlier this week. Recording in South Dakota, the trio’s created aural encapsulations that seem influenced by their natural environs. The record is eerie as the Black Hills, as hard-crusted and otherworldly as the Badlands, and windswept like the vast grasslands that make up a good portion of the state. Still, it’s the natural ingenuity with which they apply such soundscapes and which they no doubt brought with them from their former endeavors in Amps for Christ and the Mae Shi that make the record’s mix of folk, noise and rock notions jawdroppingly jarring. So call it a moot point. Cuts like “Rope” and “Subside” creek and clack like ungreased, industrial clogs, while Erika Anderson’s and Ezra Buchla’s vocals give the songs a face and a heartbeat. Or in the case of “Mercy Springs,” it’s the sound of man and machine pitted against each other, escalating into a maelstrom of frenzied sonic cavorting before quieting into an almost robotic mantra. So to come full-circle, perhaps this is the sound of that old dilemma played out.
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