In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a fan of SAYS first, a friend second. Although their first EP is just making its way into the world, they’ve already shared a bill with keyboardist Ikey Owens of the Mars Volta – it should be no surprise that SAYS is a bit dark. There’s a sinister quality to Disbelieving that treads heavily through shoegaze woods or maybe The City of Lost Children.
The title song echoes back to Massive Attack’s Blue Lines around 2:30 with a psychedelic bridge, building from a clean early melody and syncopated beat into a haze of cymbals, synth, and guitar. It sets the tone for an album that paces out an array of highlights without ever losing its focus on the morose.
“Take it or Leave” begins with an eerie atmospheric clatter, like turning through a radio dial when every station lies just out of reach. On each song, there’s an easy tension between organic guitar layers and a wily but subtly structured synth. The tension is easy to appreciate, but not easy to create, and the album comes off as a whole because of this equilibrium. Frontman Gerald Sonessa’s lyrics are well crafted, “You will open your eyes / before all of this dies / You can only wink your eye…” but stay planted firmly behind what sounds like piles of pedals and other sonic goodies.
That dynamic makes for a great launch into a loud, all out rock show, which SAYS puts on, although it had me a little concerned for the record. Where the live set is strident, the recording takes a smart step back, and plays within a restrained framework that shows off the band’s technical abilities.
Disbelieving captures more than their creative talents as performers and adds the curious feeling that evil robots may be steering this one. It may be archetypal Seattle shoegaze, but it’s nice that not everyone is making dance music. And it’s refreshing that these songs may never sell a single car.