The word ‘compact’ pretty much nails Milwaukee’s Disguised As Birds’ sound. Pounding layer after layer of riffs and weighty percussion, their material has grown more luminous and tightly wound since their conception in 2004. The band’s newest release, the New Demons EP, demonstrates the distance in sound the band has traveled, going from a jam-y, droney three-piece to an intense quartet, capable of tightening up, battening down and letting its melodies grow without overwhelming its listeners.
Returning once again to Howl Street Studios with Shane Hochstetler, Disguised As Birds has created a collection of concise but resounding songs, contradicting themselves by hinting at the droning post-rock ballads that marked their earlier self-titled release and 2007’s Seeds, but ditching the length, adding more snap. Kris Endicott’s guitar lines drift in a sea of reverb only to sharply reel back inwards, with short, jazzy strokes and textured drums from heavy-hitter Kevin DeMars and confident bass lines from Tony Ciske. Vocalist Chris Chuzles lends the definitive post-rock element with his shouted growls, keeping the band in line with other gritty, but tuneful genre mark-makers: Shiner, Regulator Watts, Jawbox, The Shipping News, the Constantines and Juno are all echoed in the Birds’ sound. Opening track, “Hayabusa’s Lament” is a throat-kicker of a song, crash cymbals wailing away just as intensely as the guitars. The intricately-rhythmed Paper Doll” leads into the bluesier raucousness of “Just Can’t Hold”, the interplay between Chuzles' and Endicott’s vocals creating a compelling distraction from the fierce instrumentation.
New Demons may be EP-length, but its intensity powers it along even more strongly than the Birds’ previous, full-length material. This shows the band at the top of their game, honed from a consistent lineup and a sound that’s fully realized.