Album Review: Giallows — ‘Enochian Power Ballads’ and ‘Placer’

Adam Wesconsin and Devin Alexander of Giallows have been making music together for much of their lives. In fact, in the first 10 seconds of Enochian Power Ballads, the groggy riffs and tentative tapping will instantly transport longtime fans back in time to Peabody’s, the bygone Quad City coffeehouse and live music hub where the duo played some of their first shows together.

But the title track, a 20-minute, fully improvised occult jam, quickly evolves to catch up with the sound they’ve developed over the years. Accompanied by drummer Ryan Collins, the three recorded three tracks in March of 2020. Released now in the wake of the initial COVID-19 lockdown, it’s no wonder the hour-long EP is the soundtrack to a late-night smoky basement hang.

Wesconsin describes the work on Enochian Power Ballads and June’s Placer, the band’s more recent single-session jam album, as a “purely musical conversation between the three of us … The big idea behind this experiment is to manifest the unique primal spirit of this band.”

Though called their “ongoing jam experiment,” these sessions don’t involve any sort of method, scientific or otherwise. There is no plan, no discussion regarding genre, theme or even time signature.
“I try to treat it like a séance,” says Wesconsin. “That’s when the good stuff comes. Nobody overthinking shit is gonna see a ghost, know what I mean?”

In the case of Enochian Power Ballads, the result is a trance-inducing marriage of Gothic shoe-gaze and stoner metal. Part of its charm are the little bits of discord just before the three all find each other again.

Placer — which sounds like Robert Smith if he’d been born in the early 1980s and grew up with that nice oil-based grunge influence — is organized more like a traditional album. Though generated using the same method and recorded under similar circumstances, it sounds more polished, more mature.

This is likely due to Giallows’ continued practice in improvisation; they can’t help but find patterns in each other’s musical “language,” so to speak. Listening to the two albums, one right after the other, is sort of like watching an old married couple reconnect and fall in love all over again.

Come to think of it, that may actually be happening. Well, there’s three of them. And two are already married. But ever since they played a well-received improvised set at Moline Noise Kitchen a few months ago, the band has been playing together and recording consistently, releasing four albums in 2020 alone. They also stream every Thursday on their Facebook page.

“There are moments in some of the sessions in which we get quiet, the air shifts and something comes in from another place,” Wesconsin said. “It’s interesting, because the more we jam together the more we’re able to recognize when this is happening.”

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 284.

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