Abronia makes music for the even-tempered, the patient, the stoic. This Portland outfit—made up of members of Ghost to Falco, Million Brazilians, and more—reveals the core of their songs with quiet exactitude on their debut album, Obsidian Visions/Shadowed Lands.
Opening track “The Great Divide” ambles along for a full minute and a half on a dusty trail of Benjamin Blake and Eric Crespo’s guitar lines before the rest of the sextet explodes into view like the first glimpse of sunrise. The song then settles into push-pull, quiet-loud dynamics that are the standard operating procedure for all woozy, Morricone-inspired instrumentals, but those first moments set a strong template for this humbly powerful collection.
The five songs reveal the band’s instrumental prowess and laundry list of influences. The sound, with its ample use of lap steel and reverb-heavy electric guitar, is firmly rooted in a sun-baked strain of Americana. But never too far from the surface are elements of European art rock in all of its guises (krautrock, psychedelia, prog) and a welcome wild card in the form of Keelin Mayer, who adds a Stooges-like squall with her saxophone and composed vocal turns à la Nico or former Swans singer Jarboe.
The slow ferment of Obsidian is often its own reward, but outside of the small blazes that fan up throughout (listen for the almost doom metal fury that takes over the latter minutes of “Glass Butte Retribution”), the album doesn’t move beyond a sedate tempo. It sets a great mood, but also limits the record somewhat. As background music, Obsidian fares better than most—it’s just hard to see this album dominating the turntable this year.
Abronia is not short on talent, as Obsidian clearly displays. As they grow as songwriters and as a collective, there’s sure to be much more substantive and varied work on the horizon. This is only the beginning.