Evangelicals

    {grate 4} Upon first listen, the Evangelicals sound like some
    underground cult of theater-school dropouts, playing broken instruments between
    laser-tag sessions. It’s fitting, then, that they’re a product of Norman,
    Okla.
    — the same strange prairie grounds
    famous for birthing weirdos like the Flaming Lips and horror-glam group
    Chainsaw Kittens.

    Their album, The Evening Descends, is a kitchen sink mash-up
    that bewilders before you realize that every pumping, pulsating bleep is in its
    perfect place. This realization takes place somewhere between the 18th and 19th
    repetition, so don’t feel too bad if the flamboyant boys’ genius isn’t
    immediately apparent.

    Descends’ sequence of symphonics strings together clips of
    borrowed basement leftovers with operatic, dazing harmonies. It doesn’t matter
    what the words are — the electrifying tremors, cushioned by occasional, echoing
    airplane suctions are compelling enough to stand alone, if impossible to
    classify.

    Every genre-bending track plays like it once began with
    overlapping scribbles of dissonance, chiseled here and there to eventually
    forge a sighing psalm of restraint, grieving and operatic liberation (the kind
    you scream off the uppermost floor of a city building).

    But then again, the words do matter for their
    unpredictability — some words are spoken like the cracked PA announcements of
    an abandoned schoolyard, some are sung like the sacred musings of a divine
    chorus and others still are belted out in heartbreaking sincerity. As the
    scales peel off into howling, you’re transported into the nightmarish
    conscience of an institutionalized schizophrenic who believes in voices.

    This fluctuation between reality and imagination is backed
    by an instrumental overload that’s more skill than overkill. On songs like
    “Party Crashing,” the arcade overloads and jingles don’t stifle delightfully
    lurid outpours, which pause only for a few lines of B-movie dialogue (“Son …
    you’ve been in an accident…/ What?/ They’ve severed your legs …”)

    But masterpieces like “Bellawood” are what make the album
    unforgettable; the track is introduced by the sound of bone chewing and the
    tremble of violins, which gateway into African pattering and haunting twists of
    the electro-theramin — and before you can question it all, Josh Jones sobs,
    “Strange things keep happening!” and the commotion liquefies into the fairy
    glockenspiel of the next track, “Paperback Suicide.” In fact, all the songs
    seem to bleed into a single puddle of fantasy, until it’s evaporated into the
    evening (just in time for the next showing of Rocky Horror).

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