The Constant State is the first EP from New York band Malka. And, the experience of more than a year on the road and having Butch Jones on production has made for a polished debut. At their core, dreampop and shoegaze are both games of “how pretty can a guitar sound?” but they follow different rules. Malka have succeeded in balancing the two in this EP without their dreamy side being overshadowed. Throughout the EP the drums are sharp, complex and fluid, while the three rotating singers weave a melodic dance of their own – without these intriguing elements, these songs would threaten to become background noise.
The first track ‘A Flock of Crows’ takes an alternating loud and quiet approach that shows off the full force of the screaming guitars and the subtle voices. It sets the overall theme for the record as a game of volumes, with the second track ‘For How We Live’ throwing a quieter curve-ball. It is a hushed epic – with the guitars rising ever higher in a crescendo style before dropping away again. On ‘Corazon Sin Sangre (Bloodless Heart)’ the quiet/loud dynamic comes back with a vengeance. The whole song almost disappears completely. If it’s the weakest track on the EP, it’s only because it is retreading old ground.
After the bait-and-switch intro to ‘Mientras Se Respira (While You Breathe)’, the song evolves into one of the best on the EP. The delay-addled studio experiments show psychedelic inclinations and build suspense for a raucous final minute. Without being fluent in the language, the Spanish lyrics reinforce the shoegaze credo of “voice as instrument”, and it works well.
Synthesisers riddle the record, but on ‘Wolves and Sheep’ they take a more prominent turn. Electronics buzz along with delays and disguised singing to create a subdued, sinister song; at least, until the final minute. The drumming, by comparison, gets a chance to shine on ‘Diamond Girl’, which takes the same trip through early psychedelic rock that early Ride did before them. It’s the heart of the record’s latter half, and the best display of Malka’s genre-bending.
‘Swoon’ continues the grand tradition of shoegazers naming a song after the guitar sound (see: almost every Cherry Wave song), yet it comes in like a stadium anthem. It feels at times like whirring, buzz-saw guitars transplanted over a U2 or Simple Minds track. It’s not a strong final track, but at least it refuses to leave quietly. In doing so though, perhaps this EP overstays its welcome; with seven tracks clocking 32 minutes, just adding the single ‘Mirame’ could have made this EP into an album. Listening to this as an EP, the energy
does start to run out, but still this record is worth repeated listening; the twitches and flourishes of ‘Diamond Girl’ and ‘Mientras Se Respira’ demand it.
‘The Constant State’ is out now on ‘Cyan Records’