London’s post-punk quartet, Ice Baths, follow-up a slew of singles this year and their last full-length with the 6-track EP, Decadent Sprinter via Blank Editions. Tom, Alex, Ed, and Jack’s form of tea-punk have always been appreciated since their 2016 split EP, Ubik/Keener, and on the new cut, thematically build around a somber reality and “moral decline” as the EP’s title definition holds. The gloomy cinematic scope on the EP is well crafted, placed, arranged, and seems to leave open-ended commentary for a listener to redirect judgement, all without being lackluster or leaving traces of a sluggish despair.
“Auster” opens as a bouncy and vital track for the EP’s conceptual start. Drumming sees no break and grows from a gracious groove with tight fills, complimenting the track’s rustic twangs and impending vocals. Diving further, the name could be pulled from Roman mythology, as Auster is the result of the sirocco wind (from the south) who brought fog and cloud coverage — fitting for the band and EP’s conceptual theme.
Onward to the interlude, “(empathy waiting)” that is 45 seconds of suspended hope. Cleverly typed and orchestrated, the sly nods of waiting, mind you for only 45 seconds, speaks volume for those who lack the empathetic ability, especially for those in higher positions of power.
Bleeding quietly into the next track, “Marlowe” disperses a slower tempo fit of displaced emotions. The guitar’s bright chords mislead the track until the track ripens to an alternative soundscape. “Marlowe” holds great melodic breaks and tempo changes, and fits to the next interlude, “(desperate disappointment).”
Once again, cleverly speaking through the length — which sees disappointment surpassing waiting for empathy — the two minute bite of ambient feedback dawdles and allows seconds of silence to resonate with a listener. “Clusters” is another impressive cut which toys and balances its melodic and dark ideals, again bringing into full focus the tight and clean drumming that is hailed on the EP.
Closing the project comes “Simulation.” Jangle guitars meet ironically, trusting vocals, for a delicate soundscape. The low and almost chrome colored vocals, if one were to assign a color, sees many variations throughout the EP and are at their most moving on “Simulation.” The repetitive construction of the track dances lightly over the delusion being presented and breathes a rather dreamy fog.
The entirety seems to be heard as a continual experience, where the band’s substance and messaging are better absorbed. With obvious inspiration from certain ensembles within the post-punk genre, Ice Baths can break away from association due to their melodic balance and overall, polished production.