Review: Elemantra - "Foreign Breath"

Elemantra - Foreign Breath
(2016 Self-Released)

Unlike 90s-revivalist acts before them - Yuck's delicate wefts of sparkling guitar and early Wavves' walls of incomprehensible fuzz, for example - Elemantra don't craft minimalist deconstructions of late 20th century alt-rock tropes. Rather, their sophomore full-length excursion, Foreign Breath, is an aureate re-imagining of the best that the decade has to offer, all crammed into a blender and poured into an insulated thermos. The first quick sip of this bountiful smoothie, "Peach Fuzz", is instant evidence of Foreign Breath's carefully calculated depth of flavor - tangy proto-emo riffage is threaded around swooping chord changes, tinged with Pavement eccentricity in the form of a twinkling jazz-pop breakdown. The New York quartet channels a vast breadth of influences on a track-by-track basis, yet they're skilled at preventing clutter - beneath the layers of revivalism and ornate instrumentation are solid pop tunes. Case in point: "My Friends" juggles The Cure's citric acid-tinged guitaristry, whispery Smashing Pumpkins bombast, and a few bars worth of J Mascis noise-rock to concoct a cohesive bedroom pop anthem that's cinematic in scope. Even the interludes are memorable - "Boltok", clocking in at a minute long, is an elegant piece of post-rock trip-hop that hearkens back to the shuffling shoegaze groove of Chapterhouse's "Pearl". Foreign Breath is a smorgasbord of hooks and familiar retro-rock textures that refuses to let its listener get too comfy within its borders - the record is constantly shifting focus and mood to brilliant effect, its linear song structures serving up fresh ideas at every turn. It's a musical haunted house that hits you with unexpected bouts of nostalgia instead of jump-scares.