WE ARE THE WEST, The Golden Shore
You can’t judge a band by its venues – or maybe you can when the trippy, unexpected performances spaces that dominate We Are The West’s packed gig schedule are as eclectic and unique as their offbeat and trippy but ultimately engaging brand of symphonic experimental folk. As underground superhero origin stories often go, vocalist/guitarist Brett Hool and bassist John Kibler formed the ensemble a few years and EPs ago in a shipping container on a sheep farm in Holland. They began performing as a duo in an abandoned convent in Brooklyn before moving to L.A., where they hold court everywhere from speakeasies and playhouses to festivals and a secretive (but always well attended) performance space in a Santa Monica garage. Working with a wide expanse of multi-talented musical friends, the duo combines straightforward, melodically and rhythmically inviting singer/songwriter material with out there sonic textures fashioned with drums, percussion, lush vocal harmonies, woodwinds, strings, brass, accordion and pump organ.
Like their shows, The Golden Shore is a long, strange (but can’t take your ears off them incredible) trip for sure. The opening track “Siren” starts with birds and murky ocean sounds before the beauty of Hool’s guitar and plaintive vocals take precedence and we hear about healing sirens on the shore over Jesse Olsen Bay’s haunting accordion. On the mysterious title track, Kibler’s upright bass joins a wave of industrial cacophony, subtle marching drums and Bay’s electric piano before Hool’s ethereal vocals kick in. Those are just a sample of the off-kilter oddness to come – but at the heart of the collection, balancing the cool oddities are infectiously, crisply written pop-folk gems you might be inclined to sing along to like “For Me, For You,” “Sea of Light” and “Crops.” Treat this album like an open (garage) door – you haven’t really experienced these cats until you hear them holding court, capturing hearts and ears underground.