Review: Double Ewes – Double Ewes (2014)

Double Ewes seem to be the stalwarts of the yearly Rock County Folk Symposium. The event has occurred for the past four years at the band’s front man Whilden Hughes’ family estate in Janesville. This year it has been moved to been to Camp Rotamer (still in Rock County), which features bathrooms and showers as well as a kitchen. The event occurs this year on August twenty-third; its multi-colored logo and advocacy of heritage brings to mind the Wisconsin State Fair, which was held for the first time ever in Janesville in 1851. Double Ewes is the band’s recently published recording and it is available just in time for the event. “Phosphenes” (the phenomenon of seeing artificial effulgence after one’s eyes have been overexposed to light) begins with a rustic melody at an unhurried tempo; eventually Hughes’ croon enters. As the beat unfurls and a reversed sample swirls he sings, “And try to close your eyes/ Tell me what do you see/ Try to face the sun/And the phosphenes.” The song eventually picks up the pace as a spirited guitar theme enters. The song ends with a hypnotic crescendo. “Deck Echoes” features what resembles an African drum sequence, passionate vocals and evocative echoes. It finishes with a psychedelic effect. “A.I.” starts with a meditative Native American flute and synth sketches. A tropical go go beat drops and the song ascends with vocals, “Will you be honest with me/You know I deserve it/ Lies get the best of me”. A tight low-end grove keeps the song moving while muffled cries fill the background. “Lonely Doe” has a delicate but also complex bass line and heavy piano. “Bumsteer Blues” completes the first half of the album with a lovely xylophone sample and dense percussion. Things get jumbled with “Comptroller”; its spotlight is its forbidding tones and skittering rhythms. Dark treble stabs interact with booming baritone hits on one. Hughes transforms his voice to a quasi-howl as he sings, “Glad I’m not a plow/ Yeah the weight of the world/Dragging you down”. It breaks down with a descending run and ends with a synth line complementing the hits. “Tears in the Sun” begins as what seems to be the album’s ballad. A sorrowful and gently strummed guitar compliments the singer as he belts out some impressive vocal range. Another tropical beat enters as an effect is added to the vocals and the mood of the song is gently disturbed. The song presses on with the addition of reverb and synth hazes. The centerpiece of “Leave the Dance (With the Girl you Brought)” is a soulful vocal sample, which recalls Moby. “Auger” finishes the album in a contemplative way as Hughes asks, “How long is life/ a song, a tide”. All the while a folky violin loops and light crackling percussion plays; light piano accents are present and an echoing sample chirps. What makes this release so great is that it blends the sounds of rural America with urban electronic techniques. With its detailed and highly artistic packaging combining with such an innovative and unique sound, this could be one if not the top independent releases of 2014 from Wisconsin.

Thoughts?