[sic] Magazine

Strand Of Oaks – Darker Shores EP

Timothy Showalter does not stagnate, his entire catalogue often tinkered with out of “needing to evolve”, future possibilities appraised in perfectionist retrospect. The live-show has however stuck with just two members of late, Showalter’s guitar accompanied by Chris Ward ‘s epic drums. Yet, those that enter their narrative via such stark shows are in for a surprise should their next port of call be Darker Shores – five synth-driven versions of material taken from 2012’s Dark Shores LP.

Though it’s good sport to play them back-to-back with the “originals”, these remixes were never intended for release until encouraged by tour-mate The Tallest Man On Earth . Happily, for all concerned, these are not crude overdubs however. Each track is redrawn with synth as a central tool, though Showalter’s knack for the ever-intensifying remains, shining through both the snappy “Last Grain”, from which it’s clear the latter-day incarnation of another tour-mate, Phosphorescent , has been rubbing off, as well as on the moody “Dark Shores” during which cannon-fire drum crunches help double the length of the LP version.

The unimposing synth on “Satellite Moon” lets the track’s heartland drive dominate, though with better pick-up it’s the more definite vocal that takes the plaudits. The reworking of “Little Wishes” is also hands-off, its forlorn country left to breathe in the cool night air whereas, on the LP, it comes on more identifiably like Neil Young having a stab at Springsteen’s Nebraska . This leaves the powerful “Hard To Be Young”, here made further dynamic by urgent, mid-mix synth dither. It’s also now got woven into its DNA the embryonic strains of an 80s FM, but before you go scoffing into your moustache this “metal-looking Slayer guy who’s trying to write Phil Collins power ballads” does manage to make it work for different is good and all of Darker Shores ‘ re-envisionings are totally worthwhile. They’re just not essential if you’re already acquainted with their siblings.

~The Darker Shores EP is out now on Dead Oceans .~