First came the single "Why" last fall, which shows off one side of Arsenault with its anxiously propulsive drum programming, cramped synth lines, and hooky vocal tantrums. It was followed by "Years" last month, which shows off the opposite side. Arsenault's wounded voice fills a cavernous space sketched out with loose, slow bass and a distant mirage of bowed strings, which lift into a gentle threnody at the end, like the unrelenting turn of a nightmare. It's the same kind of eloquent instrumental gesture that Arsenault uses between longer songs to inflate the EP to generous proportions, and for once, interstitial doesn't mean skippable. These little dreams for gamelan-like tuned metal or pitch-shifting piano feel individual rather than desultory; my only complaint about something like "Vanya", a darkly lustrous braid of low wind instruments and bright drones that rivals Colin Stetson, is that it stops after only a minute.
The gulf in tone between "Why" and "Years", which lie near the beginning and at the end of the record, is filled in not onlywith these fine shades, but also with a couple songs that reach the emphatic heights of the singles. "Shame" is a convulsive avalanche with outpouring vocals in the vein of "Why", though it differentiates itself with an intensely angular rather than linear thrum. "Life Way Up From" mirrors the atmospheric "Years" but is even more vivid, especially when weird, whorled synth colors start shining through the glassy blocks of the melody as the song proceeds. The diversity is smoothed over by the specter of Arsenault's attention, which presides with a quiet gravity, a resistance to error and chance. He precisely executes his musical ideas and leaves the bloodletting to his lyrics, faintly petulant spasms of romantic denunciation and guilt. Mas Ysa was definitely the biggest suprise about Deerhunter's surprise show, and the strong follow-through of Worth should land his prospective first LP high on most-anticipated shortlists.
A3 David Wessels
A4 Life From Way Up