"The Dharma Initiative’s debut release, The Constant, courses with the honed skill sets of a more seasoned group. From the song/music writing, through the musicianship and the vocal harmonizing of Zach Moats (Vocals, Fender Rhodes, Synth Bass and Lead, Melodica) and Megan Sloggie (Vocals, Piano), hinge-pinned by the drumming of Michal Harvey, a mature level of craftsmanship is evident. The Constant is equally satisfying from start to end, and that’s a trait often hard to find in today’s market full of less consistent efforts.
The Constant is a thick menagerie of weighty musings ready for an ear hungry for a lesson on a well-lived life; anyone looking for lighter fodder will have to ignore the songs contained therein. On “Do no Harm,” Sloggie’s calming vocals guide the listener through the story of a relationship that finds itself on the rim of inevitable change. In turn, Moats’s smooth serenade (“Easy Love”), about the necessity of a companion in life (easy, or not), takes the lead over his melodica talents on a reggae tinged pillar that finds itself running through wonderfully disparate musical tangents.
A personal favorite is a song that has found new life in this band. “Next Stop Symphony” is a remnant from Moats’s previous band (The Prisoners), and it’s nice to hear life still beating through this particular creation. Holding solidly to its reggae roots, the song is also more progressive in its changes, although it’s still sifted through an airy dub style that is a remnant of the song’s past.
“Hearts and Minds” hints at where The Dharma Initiative might find itself as it grows and develops a unique voice. At times deeply funky, at times a trippy calypso treat, Moats and Sloggie braid their vocals without either one taking an obvious lead, and the final twine is stronger for the give and take. Harvey’s drumming is also allowed to stretch, showcasing a drummer on the rise in his own right. In an album full of possible stars, this track is undeniably unique and potentially defining.
“Megan’s Song” features Moats’s unabridged skills as a singer, songwriter, and a simple man at the keys. It’s easy to picture him alone on a lit stage, plucking away and singing about the need to grab a moment before it’s a victim of time. All of the effects of modern musical technology aside, it’s hard to hide behind an ordinary piano and a voice loosed from the Wizard of Oz magic of a computer-tweaked microphone; to operate in this naked format is the sign of a true artist, and Moats has shown off a bit on this particular track, simply by being so open to a naked run in front of us all.
It’s rare for one to cite having been privileged enough to catch a great band at its start, but The Dharma Initiative is fresh and full of those basic building blocks that can make a band thrive, those blocks being song/music writing, musicianship, creativity, and the nerve to lay one’s emotions and skills bare for the world to critique. Plenty of bands have some of these attributes, but this band is lucky enough to possess them all in excess, and given enough persistence, that combination of elements often leads to a constant that cannot be easily impeded."
- Jeremy Sanchez (Freelance Music Journalist – Relix Magazine/Jambands.com/Home Grown Music Network)