reviewed by Chris Matei
Gabriola Island, where The Noise Floor Studios is located, is not a particularly bustling community. It’s quiet, relatively isolated from the busier mainland of British Columbia, and generally quite serene.
I can only imagine that Reef Shark must have torn the collective roof off of Gabriola during the making of Mind Race, their new EP following the debut long-player Better Weather: such is the powerful rock and roll magnitude of listening to the finished product. The original lineup of Devin Miller and Garth Covernton has been joined by Matty Geronimo on guitar and bassist Grady Mackintosh: the additional personnel have definitely helped contribute to the band’s songwriting depth and dynamic power.
Displaying a sympathetic ear for the fuzzy, hazy surf-pop aesthetics of bands like Surfer Blood and Real Estate, Reef Shark have taken these influences and turned the gain knobs up, cross-breeding them with a strain of thunderously vital rock riffage. The shredding never gets too self-involved, though: it recalls the exuberance of Japandroids’ much-lauded Celebration Rock at times, especially on the tight and focused opener “Leaving.” At other times, Mind Race is more meandering, segueing Pixies-style from its poppy affect into full-bore ripper mode with startling effect as on “See Ya Never” and the heavy, standout “Seven.”
There’s a distanced (though not unintelligible) tone to Devin Miller’s delivery on this record, a cynically coloured contrast to the more upbeat emotional timbre of Better Weather. The title track sees him pushing and pulling between desire and isolation over reverb-clouded, languid chords and a spaced out synth arpeggio, where the vocal delivery of “Seven” opens up into an angry roar in its hugely built choruses.
The weather on BC’s island-dotted coast can change at a whim: afternoons that seem perfect for a beer or two lounging on the deck might turn violent as hard winds whip foaming waves against the rocks, breaking boats on the shore. Reef Shark have made an EP in Mind Race that captures the same duality: sunny and bright, but ready and able to rise to eye-opening crescendos at a moment’s notice.
Mind Race will be available on Big Smoke Records on the 27th of November.
Top Tracks: “Seven,” “See Ya Never”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)