CD Central (Mike's Pick, 6/2/2011)
For some time now Asheville,NC has had a reputation as a safe-haven for all things hippie and bohemian. Phish concerts and “festie” types aside, Asheville has done a pretty bang-up job of giving the world a home for creative weirdos of all varieties (in the south, no less).
One of the brightest satellites launched from Planet Vanderbilt in recent years is Soft Opening. Now operating as a quartet, Soft Opening have released their most fully-realized piece of work to date, 2011's self-titled 12?. Steeped long and deep in psychedelia and heavy headspaces, this swirly six-song slab ventures off the beaten path while always feeling oddly familiar (even if it is a couple inches off the ground). Extremely heavy without ever swaying into metal territory, and roaming without ever dabbling in jam band wankery, Soft Opening explore the depth and breath of the mighty RIFF; letting it hang, float and crash, making use of every available second of space, filling it with think tone, gossamer strands of sustain, or simply letting the Space itself do the talking.
Inevitably, comparisons are drawn to give the listener a better sense of comfort and understanding. In this case, think Earth if they had gone their more recent pastoral route but never forgot that they were once the loudest, most crushing band on their name-sake planet. Couple that with a swig or three from whatever mystery jug the guys in Sun Dial have been carrying around for 20 years and a healthy appreciation of under-appreciated classic rock, and you start to get an idea where Soft Opening are coming from. Despite the good company, comparisons only act as direction signs (and at their worst, mile markers).
While one can definitely pick out a couple obvious influences from a spin of Soft Opening, Soft Opening themselves do not actually sound like those bands. Likewise, I know of no band that sounds like Soft Opening. They may be drinking from the same strange well as their heady forefathers, but S.O. have decidedly spiked their drink with something else, potent and mysterious.
The album itself is only available on spacey, turquoise-swirl wax (pressed by Palomino Records just down the road in Shepherdsville,KY!), and housed in gorgeously esoteric hand-screened covers.
It’s been quite a while since I came across a record that demanded to be listened to over and over and over…this one has only left the turntable long enough to be flipped.
-mikey (originally posted here)
"a collective review" by some friends in the Whitesburg, KY area (summer 2011)
for starters, kevin's initial response was "they must be smoking good weed in asheville these days". i think overall the way other folks have tried to review this record is admirable but fails to meet the real mark. are they avant-garde? not exactly. do they sound like anyone? not exactly. it's a hard one to peg.
to us it sounds like a soundtrack to a futuristic vampire movie. going on each side's sticker we listened to the b-side first (i think?), which, i bet is more common than you think. who knows at this point so fuck it.
the side that has the sticker that just says soft opening first.
song one- this is the song where we meet the hero. he is in a cottage or something. boarding up windows, getting ready for an attack by vampires.
the vampires attack
song two- the vampires have already started attacking. the battle carries on through a portion of the second song, montage style. at some point in this song all the vampires are killed. word gets back to dracula that all his vampire buddies were slain. he gets pissed off. also in this song it shows dracula riding a horse through some post apocalyptic wasteland/desert to find the guy who killed all his friends.
song three- dracula shows up at guy's house and he is pissed. there is this intense showdown where dracula is just straight up being like "come out and face me!". then it shows dude weighing his options and thinking about what defense he has mounted against dracula, like snipers that dracula doesn't see and shit. the showdown is coming. everyone is weighing their own lives cause who knows who is gonna live through this.
the menacing riffs build towards slow motion surprise attacks on dracula filled with slow guitar solos where dracula's friends and guy's friends are all getting murdered big time. no advantage is gained on either side. it's just brutal.
the battle and side ends in a draw with the hero and protagonist in a stalemate.
the side with the sticker that has all the info on it.
song one- even though this is side a (i think) this is the sequel. this song is a montage of all the brutal shit that happened in the first movie. vampires swarm guy. he kills them. dracula gets pissed. all that stuff that happened on the other side remember? the first song is a cure like montage to sum up what has happened already.
it also serves to show where dracula and guy are now. they remember what happened previously, but slack jawed idiots and innocent bystanders need a brief reminder. song 1 on this side does that and more. we find out what happened to fuckers since the first movie.
song two- this is the part where dracula and our hero both say "you know what, fuck this." they decide that they should manifest their anger towards each other in physical combat. so they train their warriors and listen to lots of earth records. that's what the second song is about.
song three- after all that training and soul searching its time to march right up on the motherfuckers you have prepared yourselves for. each group, vampires and normals march towards each other knowing it's time to fucking deal with shit once and for all. they march over long distances and rough terrains to a standstill. each group sees each other across the field. feedback rings across the battlefield with each group waiting to strike.
and then it stops. who knows what is next in this brutal story? who knows what is next of soft opening? regardless this is one to have. even if there isn't a real movie to accompany it.
Razorcake (online, 2011)
Spaced-out guitar music that varies in tempo and mood. At times, I’m reminded of Earth, then they sometimes channel early Can. For the most part, these songs are slow and deliberate, at times bordering on sludge, but they don’t downtune and get heavy. Much like the aforementioned Earth, they play their heaviness out in more subtle ways. The songs breath, letting sound rise. The drum beats are deliberate, as though they’re contemplating every move. There are vocals, but they’re sort of in the background, giving added texture. There are a couple songs that want to soar, such as the opener, but they show restraint and keep everything cool and collected, building a tension that increases as the song plays out. This is good listening, but something that requires the right mood for putting on the turntable.