Saint Marie Records perpetuates its powerful winning streak of synth-heavy noisepop releases with Descendant, a new six-tracker by Blackstone Rngrs, a trio featuring vocalist-synth player Ruth Ellen Smith, guitarist Derek Kutzer, and drummer Daniel Bornhorst. The release impresses above all else for the way the trio deftly blends multiple styles and sensibilities, among them ‘60s pop, shoegaze, punk, and New Wave, into a high-energy attack.
On its twenty-seven-minute sophomore outing (a debut EP appeared in 2012), Blackstone Rngrs wastes no time stoking dreampop fire, with “Descendant Of” lunging from the gate in a reverb-drenched firestorm of high-pitched vocals, guitar smolder, and New Wave drumming. The group has more than a few tricks up its sleeve, however, as evidenced by the psychedelic breakdown that occurs halfway through the song and the subsequent re-animation that catapults the song to its immolating close. And while the group might legitimately invite labels like shoegaze and/or dreampop, the guitar army and caustic vocalizing roaring through “You Never” suggests that something of a punk heart beats at Blackstone Rngrs' center. The stabbing six-strings flooding “Judas Tree” point the band's music in a similar direction, after which the trio cools the tempo on “Frozen Echo” for five soaring minutes of trippy instrumental dreampop. It's not easy picking a single standout track when all six are strong, but “Nights//Days,” with its Pretenders-styled bass lines, silken vocals, and galloping pulse, is definitely a leading candidate.