Typically, when a band derives their name from a song or an album made famous by another group, their sound proves to be rather derivative, often paling in comparison to their inspirational namesake. But in the case of Brooklyn’s Exitmusic, the enthralling, richly textured sounds featured on their debut full-length, Passage, only builds on the promise suggested by their Radiohead-inspired band name. Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church craft intoxicating moods and musical movements throughout the album’s ten dynamic numbers, leaving the listener feeling as if they did indeed experience a transformative musical journey that has brought them somewhere entirely new in the process.
The album gets off to an elegant, emphatic start with the deeply evocative title track, a piano-laden dirge which gradually unfolds into a sprawling, soaring number with subtle electronic flourishes and a cacophony of drums slowly building around Palladino’s simmering, impassioned vocals. ‘Passage’ catches the listener’s undivided attention straight away, and the rest of the album certainly holds it fast.
Palladino’s voice take on a smokey, weathered quality on ‘The Night’, with hints of Victoria Legrand in the vocals and of Beach House themselves layered within the track’s hypnotic melodies, while ‘The City’ contains elements of the icy menace of The Knife within its slow-burning electronic churn. ‘The City’ flows smoothly into the smoldering intensity of ‘White Noise’, which is guided along by Palladino’s fervent vocals that are simply drenched in raw, unvarnished emotion. Her dramatic gasps for breath between verses are plainly (and intentionally) audible, and only serve to add to the strength of sentiment conveyed by the number.
The middle portion of the record dials down the poignant histrionics of the earlier tracks in favour of a more refined approach, but one that is still imbued with lush atmospherics. ‘Storms’, ‘The Wanting’, and ‘Stars’ all successfully build a spacious ambiance within their haunting melodies, as an ethereal, dreamlike quality pulses at their collective heart. ‘The Modern Age’ brings back the tension and release featured at the start of the record, with the striking, dynamic conclusion to the track representing one of the album’s finest moments, complete with a subtle guitar riff at the end that cheekily echoes ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’.
Passage winds down with ‘The Cold’, another moody, minimalist piece that serves as a stylish setup for the elegiac album closer, ‘Sparks Of Light’, which brings the record to a dramatic end. “We are sparks of light, but we hide it”, Palladino sings tenderly in the track’s delicate coda, but Exitmusic thankfully didn’t hide anything on Passage, a bold, revealing album that stands as a self-assured sonic announcement of Palladino and Church’s grand arrival on the modern music scene.