Conduits – Conduits

written by: April 25, 2012
Release Date: March 20th, 2012


Just as Conduits are conducting an electrically charged approach to traditional guitar rock, they are also conducting a somewhat somber yet subtle survey of shoegazer tropes on their self-titled debut. A creation of guitarists JJ Idt and Nate Mickish, the Conduits’ fusebox was fully charged with the addition of Jenna Morrison on vocals, and the Omaha, Nebraska sextet also includes bassist Mike Overfield, keyboardist Patrick Newbery, and drummer Roger Lewis.

They have logged time with a corresponding half dozen fellow Cornhusker outfits that include Son Ambulance, The Good Life, Eagle Seagull, Neva Dinova, The Golden Age and Cursive, and are touring with the latter this spring. On paper, they seem to be billed as a supergroup of Nebraska indie rockers that run the gamut from the infinitesimally obscure to the almost “bubbling up from under,” but the reality is most likely more related to the burgeoning but possibly musically incestuous Omaha music “scene,” if it’s really ok to call it that.

The kick-off cut, “Top Of The Hill,” constructs shimmering structures from sheets of sheer guitar chords and layers Jenna Morrison’s lovely, breathy, echoey vocals on top. Listening to the song, it’s easy to close one’s eyes and imagine climbing to the top of that hill and looking down on a valley of sonic majesty. Unfortunately, they follow that age-old dictum to lead with their best song in such a way that the following cuts seem like something of a letdown. And that’s a shame, since the subsequent tracks are lovely as well, they’re just more finely textured with greater subtlety and require more deliberate, complete immersion. When a record starts out this good, it’s a tough act to follow. From the “Top” they recall the sprawling majesty and winsome vocal approach of The Boo Radleys’ “Giant Steps” single.

Within the slow-burn simmering of the record, vocalist Morrison runs the dynamic gamut from sweetly lilting to uttering banshee howls. On “Blood” she sounds like smooth songstress Sade, while on another track she could be the Siouxsie Sioux of The Banshees’ Screaming fame.

The laidback, Low-like ploddingness of “Well” allows her gorgeous, subtly aching delivery to grow, swell and soar; in contrast, “Misery Train” just dirges along contemplatively, but doesn’t really go anywhere, musically (“Last Dirge,” by comparison, is a simmering high point). Morrison’s breathiness is particularly pronounced and her vocal part is beautiful, but the song doesn’t have much direction.

“Limbs and Leaves” takes a while to get going too, but there’s a certain sinister spy theme hauntingness to the song; while it’s cloaked in atmosphere, it doesn’t get obscured or absorbed in it. It doesn’t have the driving, propellant rhythm incumbent in say, a Citizens Here and Abroad track, but it’s a lovely little sketch nonetheless. Thankfully, “The Wonder” picks up the tempo quite a bit and rollicks along, extending the “spy theme” vibe but elongating it into a hook-driven aria with a compelling syncopated backbeat.

Conduits don’t channel the “tsunami of sound” into their music like the similarly-minded group The Joy Formidable have, but one could see how their aesthetic approach could be considered similar. In addition, hints of early Chairlift can be heard, as well as their admitted inspirations Portishead, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and Slowdive (the latter being an obvious touchstone for “On the Day”).

All in all, this may not be the best, brightest or newest band on the block, but Conduits show a lot of promise on their first full-length, and the record reveals more depth and loveliness with each listen. It may not make too many 2012 Top Ten lists, but just the same, if these songs pop up during a shuffle, they will be difficult to skip.

Conduits – Conduits tracklist:

  1. “Top of the Hill”
  2. “Misery Train”
  3. “Limbs and Leaves”
  4. “The Wonder”
  5. “On the Day”
  6. “Last Dirge”
  7. “Blood”
  8. “Well”