I absolutely love discovering progressive bands from my home state of Ohio, especially when they live close to me here in Akron. I originally connected with Argyle and the Smoothskins before the Haken concert in Cleveland last year, and I was happy to see them follow up with me about the release of their debut album “Go and Make Disciples”. It released on April 20th, and it is truly a pleasure to hear.
The band consists of Evan Fox on drums and programming, Dave Kirsch on bass, and James Lapso on guitars and programming. It’s just a three-piece band, but the sound they produce is massive. Not only is their sound meaty, but it also has strong elements of restraint and class.
Their musical style is a bit all over the place, but it somehow feels unified at the same time. You will have tracks that are more acoustic and delicate, with wonderful acoustic guitar licks. You will also have something akin to sludge metal in other songs, while still other songs sound proggier, almost like Haken in some ways. The band truly is genre-less, as they explore all sorts of sounds, and there is a bit of an alternative vibe to all of it.
I am seriously impressed with what I am hearing in this album. It takes balls to release an album that explores many genres, but it takes maturity and intelligence to release an album that is diverse but also feels whole and unified. The band has a certain sound, and that shows up regardless of the genre. Whether it’s the great soloing, the playful moments, or the excellent bass lines, the band’s signature sound can be found in every song, whether it be heavy or more ambient.
The performances here are wonderfully produced. While I’m sure the production could be better, it sounds quite good for a self-produced band. James’ guitars sound meaty and threatening in the metal parts, delicate and bright in the acoustic sections, and soulful and soaring in the solos. Dave’s bass is powerful and Evan’s drums have oomph, and I love the changes in pace that they offer suddenly and deftly. Drums, especially, are played appropriately and add off kilter beats to every song, whether heavy or soft. Programming of keys and other instruments sounds beautiful and light, and it creates a perfect umbrella under which everything else takes place.
There is a wide variety of songs on this album. Some are heavy and have lots of sweet sludgy riffing, like “Waking Hours” and “Phosphene”. Some songs are surprisingly soulful, like “Stuck in the Couch”. Some feel more ominous and proggy, like “Fore”. The album is truly interesting because it alternates between heavy and soft, technical and serene. It does so with great transitions and all signs of true competence in each genre.
My favorite tracks are pretty complex. “Ephemeral Thought” is a great sludgy track that transitions into an atmospheric melody near the end. “Cool Hand Luke 2” has a wonderfully serene feeling to it. It reminds me of the music from the movies The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, for some reason, and so I think it’s my favorite overall. “Dance Part 2.0 in B Major” might be the most misleading title ever. The song is airy with sounds of xylophone (I assume synthesized) dancing on the light. It has great transitions and is in no fashion a dance song.
“To Willow” ends the album, and is a difficult song to absorb. It’s a 20 minute epic that is more atmospheric prog rock than anything else, although it does visit all the genres on the album, too. It is also the only track to feature vocals. While the vocals sound pretty good as far as sound, the actual vocal lines could have been written a little better. I’m sure that will improve with time. What makes this track difficult to assess is that it is really well composed instrumentally, even though the vocals are a bit iffy. The vocals are only present for a few minutes of the whole runtime. The results are a track that doesn’t feel like 20 minutes, and it has some truly memorable moments.
Argyle and the Smoothskins have a strange name, but their music should be taken seriously. I love the mix of genres and the attention to minute details throughout each song, and I really look forward to hearing what they can produce next. Please take a look at their Bandcamp.