Review: Cedar Falls - "Esla"

Cedar Falls - Esla
(2013 Self-Released)
"Bathes a smattering of seemingly unrelated influences in shoegazey fuzz."

Here’s a release that takes me back to the origins of the Half-Gifts music blog. I named the site after the fourth and final track of the Cocteau Twins’ oft-overlooked 1995 EP called Twinlights. Though the band is most known for their ethereal (and rather liturgical) take on dream-pop, the brief release relegates their usual shoegazery to be a supplement to acoustic arrangements, and the dramatic change in sounds pays off: though piano, acoustic guitar and strings are at each song’s focus, the residual shimmer that brews in the background is what makes Twinlights so memorable. That background effect is resurrected on Elsa, the debut album by Long Island’s Cedar Falls. It takes cues from a smattering of seemingly unrelated influences and bathes them in shoegazey fuzz and reverb adding up to one gorgeous EP.

“There” is the first track to include vocals, which hide among twangy, vaguely dissonant pluckings that recall Slint’s tinny guitar tone on Spiderland. It’s nice, but seems to be a bit of a buffer, countering the unchallenged beauty that circulates through “Isolated Roads”, which channels Neutral Milk Hotel’s fuzz-folk. “Julia”, however, is my personal favorite selection from Esla, and is perhaps the sleeper track of the bunch. The synths that breathe life into the song sound like a slowed-down sample of Paul McCartney’s “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime”. Declan Diemer’s vocals have a surprisingly “pop” accent to them, a rather welcome inclusion on such a mellow album.