Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Conduits

Written by Katy Otto
Conduits.jpgIn high school, I fell deeply in love with a British band Catherine Wheel. They were the most perfect sonic fuzz I had ever encountered, and their sometimes 23-minute opus “Black Metallic” brought my brain and heart to a place of immense calm and joy. A few friends told me they were “shoegaze.” The genre, in a way, has often confused me.
 
I read that word right off the bat when reviewing Omaha, Nebraska’s Conduits – shoegaze. It connotes introversion, and when I played the first song from their self-titled release – Top of the Hill – I was transported to those days in high school when I listened to music for hours alone in my room. I’ve associated Omaha fairly strictly with Saddle Creek – Bright Eyes and Cursive, namely – but this outfit has a decidedly different feel.
Conduits.jpgIn high school, I fell deeply in love with a British band Catherine Wheel. They were the most perfect sonic fuzz I had ever encountered, and their sometimes twenty-three-minute opus “Black Metallic” brought my brain and heart to a place of immense calm and joy. A few friends told me they were “shoegaze.” The genre, in a way, has often confused me.

I read that word right off the bat when reviewing Omaha, Nebraska’s Conduits—shoegaze. It connotes introversion, and when I played the first song from their self-titled release—"Top of the Hill"—I was transported to those days in high school when I listened to music for hours alone in my room. I’ve associated Omaha fairly strictly with Saddle Creek—Bright Eyes and Cursive, namely—but this outfit has a decidedly different feel. I checked their blog out, and realized they listed Portishead, Slowdive, and Jason Spaceman among their influences. It made sense, as singer Jenna Morrison does pull off the purported remoteness of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons—minus the plaintiveness that makes that band one of the most visceral. Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star strikes me as a more apt comparison.

The original Conduits demo was created by JJ Idt and Nate Mickish, two guitarists from the Omaha indie rock scene. Later, the band was rounded out with Morrison, bassist Mike Overfield, keyboardist Patrick Newbery, and drummer Roger Lewis. They’ve enjoyed success in Omaha and did a stint opening for Bright Eyes. The success is warranted—"Misery Train," the album’s second track, is another song perfect for secluding yourself in your room, lights off, and thinking. There is a vaguely religious feeling between Morrison’s voice and the breathy, fuzzed out guitars and samples. More mood than song, this is definitely not the kind of album I could drive, exercise to, or spend time with other people while listening.

I was disappointed that "Limbs and Leaves" starts out with a pitch and note SO similar to the one that kicks off "Misery Train," although it quickly moves into a very different tempo. "Fish Mountain," the fourth track, was a welcome change of emotion and pace, with somber bass riffs setting the stage for a piece both fast-paced and melancholic, but Morrison’s voice does not convey any emotion of loss, sadness or pain. It is beautiful, and perfectly pitched, but does not betray  anything of her own experience. My mind wandered for the rest of the album. It is good and solid, but doesn’t command my attention to the hearts of its creators. At the end of the day, I think I am looking for a more resounding human connection from music—"Blood," however, was the track that came closest, as the second to last. The door cracks on feeling and you think you may get a bit closer to the soul of the creators. There is a suggestion of this once Morrison’s vocals close out the album on the final song "Well," but you have to be patient in that song to get to those moments.

I’d love for more like them on their next album. That was why Catherine Wheel always kept me riveted—a frenzy that turned your shoegaze into a shoeglare.

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